San Diego Dance Theater culminates its 13th annual site-specific community event at the Santee Trolley Square Town Center
Tote up the numbers: 12 miles of track, 6 offbeat sites, 55 talented dancers, 5 imaginative choreographers, and gobs of intrigued onlookers.
It’s the 13th year of Trolley Dances, the brainchild of Jean Isaacs, artistic director of San Diego Dance Theater, in partnership with the Metropolitan Transit System: a great and affordable way to see new work by local and imported choreographers, while you ride the trolley and explore unfamiliar areas of town. The event has become so popular in San Diego, it’s now franchised; Trolley Dances are presented in San Francisco, Stockton, and soon, Riverside.
This year’s presentation is a fun ride – starting at Grantville Station (east of Mission Valley), stopping at SDSU, and ending at the Santee Trolley Square Town Center, site of three performances.
As always, the quality of the dances and dancers varies, but there are many delights to be had. A few highlights:
- Whimsy works best at Trolley Dances, and no one does it better than Isaacs herself. One of her two pieces, set in an abandoned La Salsa venue in the Santee Trolley Square Center, is entitled “International Cooking School.” Each of the eight dancers portrays a chef of a different nationality: French, Cajun, Italian, Mexican, etc. Trystan Loucado is a hoot, in perilously high heels, as a chirpy Julia Child. This setup requires more acting than dancing skills, and predictably, some performers are more convincing than others. But the location is perfect, the dancers cleverly costumed (by Isaacs and Company). The physical and verbal cacophony, situated behind and around the huge metal table fronting the cooking area, has the chefs aggressively displaying utensils and competing for attention. Great fun!
- Isaacs’ other piece, “Bolero,” takes place on the multi-level green outside the expansive SDSU Trolley Station. Fifteen young dancers, students from San Diego and Tijuana, outfitted in bright yellow hard hats, traverse the levels with commendable synchrony, energy and focus.
- Also on the comical side is Allyson Green’s “The Last Stop,” staged at the former Santee Town Center Bus Station. In this visual/sound collage that samples themes and text from TV and film Westerns., the imagery is gorgeous, even if the narration sometimes gets in the way. But set against the mountain scenery, some stunning segments could be stolen right from the celluloid.
- “Parallel Groove for 8,” the creation of choreographer Paz Tanjuaquio (a New York-based UCSD alum), at the Grantville Trolley Station, is the most dancerly of the performances (the others feature more running, jumping, balancing and comical moves). There’s more coupling and lifts in this high-octane piece, which fits wonderfully into the locale, the moves cleverly mimicking the readiness, rush, waiting and riding of a daily trolley commute.
Trolley Dances is a distinctive and innovative way of using public transportation to bring dance to the people and people to the dance. We San Diegans may not have changing leaves to view each fall, but we have our own unique and colorful tourist – and local – attraction.
“Trolley Dances” continues this weekend, October 1-2, beginning at the Grantville Trolley Station, 4510 Alvarado Canyon Rd. and ending at the Santee Trolley Square Town Center.
Tours (lasting about 2½ hours) leave every hour from 10-3:00 on Saturday and 1-4:00 on Sunday.
Tickets ($15-$30) are available at 619-225-1803 or www.sandiegodancetheater.org , or you can just show up at the Grantville Station.