WAVES OF CHANGE: West Wave Dance Festival Returns With Joe Landini at the Helm

By Claudia Bauer

September 1, 2013, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

It was a sad day for Bay Area dance when the West Wave Dance Festival folded in 2012. The annual showcase began as Summerfest under the direction of Cathleen McCarthy and Joan Lazarus, who turned it into West Wave in 2003. Then, after twenty-two years of presenting some of the Bay Area’s most talented emerging and established dance artists, Lazarus left the Bay Area, and it seemed that West Wave was gone too. But the festival has risen again (really, for the brainchild of someone named Lazarus, it’s the only fitting outcome) under the enthusiastic leadership of Joe Landini, who spoke with Claudia Bauer about its new incarnation.

Claudia Bauer: How did this come about?
Joe Landini: Grants for the Arts [San Francisco’s arts and culture funding program] did not want the festival to fold. The city believes in it and approached us about keeping it going. It’s great that they had confidence in us. Part of the city’s reasoning was it’s the last independent dance festival in the Bay Area.

CB: Why is that important?
JL: Every space has its own agenda; every organization has its own agenda. The programming becomes so focused on that agenda that they lose the idea of being inclusive. That’s not a bad thing; it totally makes sense. But the beauty of West Wave is that it doesn’t have that agenda.

CB: So, what is West Wave’s agenda?
JL: The important thing was that we have a festival that represents the broadest spectrum of what San Francisco and Bay Area dance is. I wanted the Bay Area to have a festival that represented what’s happening on a national and international level in some way. The contemporary dance field is growing amazingly fast, and I wanted a festival that spoke to that. And on a local level, it was important to me that there are all these pockets of dance happening in San Francisco, so I made sure that they were represented.

CB: Three of the performances are curated by Krissy Keefer, Jesse Hewit and Amy Seiwert. How do they fit in to the agenda?
JL: One of the trends happening on the national and international level is the focus on developing contemporary dance in communities, and incorporating communities into dance. I think Krissy Keefer is an incredible representation of that, of going out into other communities and inviting them into her space to make work. You see the taiko community, hip-hop, Cuba Caribe, queer—you can see the efforts that Krissy has made to invite those communities into her space to make work.

Artists are having other kinds of conversations about dance, and exploring ideas of how dance can be sustainable. In San Francisco we have a long history of that. Sara Shelton Mann has been making that kind of work for thirty years, and now we see emerging choreographers like Jesse Hewit and Laura Arrington doing that. These kinds of conversations are happening in a lot of other places right now, so I wanted to make sure those artists were represented in the festival. That’s the reason we invited Jesse to curate one of the programs.

CB: And how about Amy Seiwert?
JL: Ballet has been really struggling to grow. There have been some successes in that community, and I think that Amy is really looking forward to what ballet has the capacity to be. I wanted to honor the work that Amy is doing. Also, Amy has a long relationship with West Wave, and I really wanted to make sure there was an acknowledgement of West Wave’s history.

CB: The October 5th show is not curated. How is it different from the others?
JL: The one thing Joan asked was that there would be some form of an open call. That was a really big part of West Wave in the past. But I didn’t want to do just a traditional open call, so I came up with the idea of doing commissions. It’s something I feel very passionate about, because in the Bay Area we don’t commission a lot of work. The Garage is able to offer rehearsal space, and West Wave is able to offer some modest stipends, so we decided to make the open call a commissioning program.

CB: How did you choose the people to commission?
JL: We didn’t really tell the artists what we wanted; we didn’t give them a form to fill out. We wanted it to be really DIY, and we wanted them to be very proactive. They had to post everything on Google Drive and give us links to their video. We had twenty one applicants. The West Wave advisory board evaluated the applications and scored them on a scale of 1 to 10. And what was really exciting was the four highest scores were all brand-new, emerging choreographers that almost none of us had heard of.

CB: Why didn’t you curate them yourself?
JL: It was really important that it not be perceived as a Garage event, and I would have probably curated Garage artists! To the detriment of my artists, probably, I didn’t feel a need to curate West Wave.

CB: And how is all of it working logistically?
JL: For the shows at Z Space, all of the companies are showing up at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. That’s it. We’re all getting there at 2, and we’ll build the show from 2 to 8. The one thing that we know for sure is that people are going to show up at 8 o’clock. It’s very DIY. There is no lighting designer; there will probably be no stage directors.

CB: What are you most excited about?
JL: I’m pretty stoked about going as a viewer! I mean, you give Krissy Keefer all the toys—I can’t wait to see what she does! I’m more excited as an audience member than as a producer.

CB: Where do you see West Wave going from here…or do you have any idea?
JL: I actually don’t! We’re going to evaluate how this year went. I’m sure there will be a lot of feedback [laughs]. I feel like this is a pretty good model; I like the idea of bringing curators in, and I like the idea of commissioning, so I hope all of that is received well. I’m really open to new ideas. And the city has pledged to support the festival next year, which makes me really happy. This field is changing so fast, and it’s important to embrace that. People are interested in seeing new ideas. Hopefully, as a working artist I bring some of that energy to the table.

CB: It’s like a big experiment, and you’re going to see what comes of it.
JL: I think it’s really important if we’re going to push the field forward.

Program 1: The Beat of 24th and Mission
Mon, Sep 16, 8pm, Z Space
Curated by Krissy Keefer, featuring Dance Mission’s resident artists, teachers and students: Dance Brigade, Grrrl Brigade, Allan Frias / Mind Over Matter, Anna Sullivan / Anna and the Annadroids, Sean Dorsey / Sean Dorsey Dance, Nicole Klaymoon’s Embodiment Project, Joti Singh / Duniya Drum and Dance, Susana Arenas / Arenas Dance Company, Ramon Ramos Alayo / Alayo Dance Company, Nol Simonse, Juan de la Rosa.

Program 2: Four Commissions
Sat, Oct 5, 8pm, ODC Commons
Anne-René Petraca investigates the idea of community and connection in the last of light, a quartet for four women. Anandha Ray fuses modern dance and Odissi Temple Dance in The Quimera Project, performed by Laura Rae Bernasconi. Choreographer Holly Shaw and composer/multi-instrumentalist Laura Inserra explore the idea of the renegade through contemporary flamenco in The Outlaw. Casey Lee Thorne and interactive lighting designer Mark Janes collaborate on The Shadow of a Doubt, a contemporary ballet inspired by Rumi.

Program 3: We Have This
Mon, Oct 21, 8pm, Z Space
Curator Jesse Hewit pairs diverse artists for one-on one encounters: Hewit himself and Sara Shelton Mann, Monique Jenkinson and Liz Tenuto, Keith Hennessy and Mica Sigourney, Jose Navarette and Amara Tabor-Smith, Laura Arrington and Brontez Purnell.

Program 4: Make.Believe
Mon, Oct 28, 8pm, Z Space
Amy Seiwert invites Bay Area dance makers Melissa Payne, Robert Dekkers, Maurya Kerr and Julia Adam to create new works based on fairy tales and myths.

Tickets for all performances are $15 advance / $20 at the door. For more information, visit westwavedance.org, zspace.org and odctheater.org.

This article appeared in the September 2013 issue of In Dance.

Claudia Bauer is a freelance writer. She covers dance for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dance Magazine, Pointe Magazine, Dance Teacher Magazine and DanceTabs.com.