DID YOU KNOW? Dance For A Reason

By In Dance

November 1, 2016, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

Founded in 2012 by a group of current and former San Francisco Ballet dancers—Garen Scribner, James Sofranko, and Margaret Karl—Dance For A Reason (DanceFAR) supports the work of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) by presenting an annual dance performance and party. The organizers have helped raise over $350,000 to date for CPIC, and encourage volunteerism and community service among the dance artists and companies who share their work at the annual event.

Co-founder and producer, James Sofranko, shares his intentions and hopes for DanceFAR. James is a soloist at San Francisco Ballet and artistic director of SFDanceworks, a contemporary repertory company he founded in 2014.

How did Dance For A Reason get started? In 2012, a fellow dancer and dressing roommate of mine at the San Francisco Ballet, Garen Scribner, introduced me to CPIC and the CEO at the time, Sally Glaser, who is a dance fan. Garen and I were inspired by Sally’s passion and the aim of the entire organization to “get in front” of cancer. The fact that one in every two people will develop some form of cancer in their lifetimes was unacceptable to us. Cancer had already affected both of our families and we brain- stormed ideas of how we as dancers could help the cause. We couldn’t think of a better way than putting on a show to raise funds and awareness for CPIC! Between the two of us, we gave all our dancer friends a call and everyone we spoke to was eager to participate, including most of the larger Bay Area dance companies. We also enlisted former SFB dancer Margaret Karl to help us throw a big after party for the audience and performers. The first year, we sold out the Herbst Theater and the event was a hit, as it not only gave audiences a chance to “sample” some of what the Bay Area dance community has to offer, but also allowed dancers in different companies the rare opportunity to perform together on the same stage. Sometimes you can get caught up in the bubble of your home organization and it’s nice to remember that we are indeed a community of artists.

What is your role with the project? My role as producer is to program the performance, manage the artists, and together with my co-founders, generally oversee the entire event.

How do you decide which artists and companies are a part of the event? This is a hard task! We realized the enormity of this undertaking when we threw our first performance (then called “Get in Front”), and we literally had enough dancers and companies asking to participate that we could have had over a four-hour performance. As enticing as that may sound to some, we had to draw the line somewhere and we settled on a model that incorporates most of the “big name” companies, like San Francisco Ballet, ODC/Dance, Smuin Ballet, and Alonzo King LINES Ballet, while having room every year for smaller, lesser known ones, as well as a guest artist or two. We make a concerted effort to bring together works that complement each other and showcase the variety of the Bay Area contemporary dance and ballet communities.

What has been the most rewarding part of your work with Dance For A Reason? I love seeing all the dancers who have donated their performances to the cause, gathered backstage, rooting each other on. I love looking out to the full house that is excited for the performance and excited to support the good work of CPIC. I love the fact that the afterparty brings together local restaurants and wineries that donate to the cause. And I love that DanceFAR makes me proud to be a part of a Bay Area dance community that comes together once a year to give back to a world bigger than ourselves.

Do you have a favorite performance or memorable moment with the project? It’s always a favorite moment when I hear someone say that they really enjoyed a performance from a company that they had never seen or heard of before. To be able to turn people on to new dance experiences and styles is so fulfilling; there is so much great dance out there, and I’m happy to be a part of that introduction.

One of my favorite performances in DanceFAR was from Nederlands Dans Theater in 2014, in a piece called Softly As I Leave You, choreographed by Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon. The dancers and the images they created were haunting and the theme of loss was poignant to the cause.

What’s a future goal or dream that you have for Dance For A Reason? One day we’d love to be able to broadcast DanceFAR online to reach a global audience. We’d also love to take the concept of dancers and artists giving back to the community even further. There are so many worthy causes in the world, and so many talented artists. We hope to offer ways to allow more partnerships like this to happen.

What inspires you? People who have a passion for what they do inspire me. To do anything well takes a tremendous amount of dedication and hard work. The dancers on the stage, passionate about their craft, are no different from the researchers and scientists at CPIC, passionately working hard to make the world a better place.

What haven’t we asked that you want people to know? Every ticket sold for DanceFAR includes the performance AND the after party in the adjoining YBCA Forum! Not only does the stage fill with performers from all over the Bay Area, but the after party is filled with local restaurants and food and drink vendors who also come together to donate to the cause. It is a complete evening, well worth the ticket price!

This is the fifth anniversary of DanceFAR and it takes so many people to make it happen every year. I am thankful for every single dancer, donor, volunteer, and audience member in the last five years for keeping this very special event alive.

How can someone get involved? We always need people to be involved. If you have the means, becoming a sponsor is the best way to contribute. Sponsors receive many benefits. If you would like to volunteer or become a sponsor, contact McKenzie Howard at mckenzie.howard@cpic.org. If you have other questions or would like to contact me directly about other ways to con- tribute, email me at jsofranko@outlook.com.

Dance For A Reason: Nov 29, YBCA Theater, SF

In Dance is a publication of Dancers' Group.