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Dancin' in the Street: San Diego Dance Theater Takes Performances out of the Spotlight and into the Sunlight

By Kelly Gallagher

Imagine this: you're strolling down the sidewalk on a warm, sunny San Diego day when you hear music start to play. You look around and spy something strange high up on a fire escape: a group of dancers, dressed to impress, moving to the sound. It's a spectacular sight- like nothing you've ever seen on a city street before. But what is it?

Turns out, you've come upon a "trolley dance" performance by the San Diego Dance Theater, an organization dedicated to creating unconventional dance programming accessible to both the public and dancers of all backgrounds and abilities. Trolley dance performances take place in locations such as bridges, shopping mall entryways, and swimming pools, and are intended to help spread messages- through the art of dance- to the people of San Diego. Performances can also be seen at area festivals and special events.

No dance company that would regularly perform in such unusual spaces could ever be called run-of-the-mill, and that's the way San Diego Dance Theater likes it, according to Artistic Director Jean Isaacs. "No one dance in our concert looks like any other, and they are created collaboratively," she says. "The dancers suggest material. Inspiration comes from text, music, an overheard slip of conversation, a newspaper article, a social issue, or by the way someone moves or gestures."

Unique artistic concepts and radical performance locations definitely help keep both the dancers and the residents of San Diego on their toes, but the dance company also enriches people's lives through dance education. Classes in jazz, hip hop, and modern dance are offered specifically for teens, and seniors can enjoy the Aging Creatively program, which encourages students ages 60-99 years to express themselves through movement. This class is geared toward students of various mobility levels and allows the use of tools, such as chairs, to accommodate different physical needs. The organization company also holds a summer workshop to help dancers fine-tune their skills.

Reaching a diverse audience is one of San Diego Dance Theater's primary goals, and the very nature of the art form leads itself to this objective. "Since dance is nonverbal, everyone, regardless of their language, can understand it at some level," says Isaacs. "It can be used to express emotions for which there are no words."

Performing original pieces in various San Diego-area locations is a way to move past traditional dances and traditional dance spaces, reflecting the dance company's mission of performing pieces that reflect the world as it is today. It doesn't matter if you're a seasoned dancer or have two left feet- dance is something that everyone can understand and feel. In San Diego, you don't even need to buy a ticket.

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About The Author

Kelly Gallagher studied creative writing at SUNY Oswego and Vermont College of Fine...

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