These days, I’m into watching. A happy voyeur sitting in a darkened room where I view bodies working out choreographic ideas that are complex, nuanced, big, bold–even messy. Ideas that are assuredly full-bodied and fully embodied. My artistic guiders give me cues and symbols, visual and verbal, that are imbedded within their structures, which help me navigate a physical menu that is abundant and thrives here in the San Francisco Bay Area. On any given week, an audience’s choice in attending different dance forms is dizzying and makes me realize that the region’s wealth of difference creates for an elaborate conversation about how to find more resources to present, and ultimately, preserve our region’s dance traditions.
In many instances, watching dance has never been easier, with videos available online that are shared through a variety of social media and websites. Plus, it is now a common experience to find dance performances presented in public places–we are bringing dance to the people and it’s a good thing. Yet, this is not a new occurrence for dance artists that have traditionally found their dance form imbedded in their community, where food, religion and ceremonies honoring life and death are seen as essential in how their dance form is presented.
Rob Taylor brings this conversation front and center in an enlightening conversation about what it means to work within a tradition. He interviews Lily Kharrazi, the Living Cultures Grants Program Manager at the Alliance for California Traditional Arts. Lily’s passionate and astute advocacy for those that are tradition bearers is quickly evident on reading Taylor’s article.
We are fortunate to have Taylor add a second article to this issue with a parallel, and equally important, conversation on the need to embrace both tradition and innovation within a form. Taylor speaks with Rachna Nivas of the Chitresh Das Dance Company and the Executive Director of the company, Celine Schein, on how Pandit Das is empowering his dancers and students to find a modern path into the Kathak tradition.
These topics land squarely in how ideas by any teacher are passed on, and how a teacher keeps the message current while being grounded in that artist’s form or tradition, new or centuries old. To demonstrate the breadth of teaching, Dancers’ Group has compiled our annual May through August Summer Workshop Guide that provides insight into some of the 799 dance organizations creating work in the Bay Area. These workshops range from experimental forms, to opportunities to study with master artists in this region and beyond–workshops for children and adults, professional or not, beginning to advanced, can be found within the 90 plus offerings listed.
American Dance Recon, a new and exciting project that was launched last fall in New York City, will serve as the template for a second iteration that will take place in the Bay Area next fall. Founders of American Dance Abroad, and this project, Andrea Snyder and Carolelinda Dickey, give an in-depth account of their motivation for creating conversations that expose international presenters to American dance.
Friday, April 26, marks the beginning of our celebration of National Dance Week, which will end on Sunday, May 5. As I’ve mentioned before, the Bay Area’s approach to this national celebration of movement is to open doors and offer the public a free taste of the amazing range of dance in the Bay Area through classes, workshops, performances, lectures and other types of demonstrations. For the second year Dancers’ Group will be working with Anna Halprin to present her dance for peace, the 33 year young Planetary Dance. This year, this closing event of Bay Area Dance Week will be held at Yerba Buena Gardens. All ages and all abilities are invited to dance for a purpose–bring yours and you’ll get to witness Anna during a ceremony that is of the moment.
Whether you are in San Francisco on May 5th or not, you can always join in on this day, or any other, by dancing and speaking your hopes, dreams and desires. What larger vision are you seeking to become reality? What do you want to heal? Let’s make it all happen.
—Wayne Hazzard, Executive Director