CVIndependent

Wed12022020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

The Palm Springs Dance Project has burst onto the scene as a new and exciting dance program that merges professionals with local students—and the public will get to see the fruits of the program during a series of events taking place Thursday through Saturday, March 5-7.

Darcy Carozza, the founder and executive director, started dreaming up the Palm Springs Dance Project in 2015, when she was the managing director of the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

“At that time, I noticed that dance was lacking at the theater, so I created a series of events that included dance,” she says.

A breakthrough moment came, she says, when around 40 local students were performing onstage at the theater.

“The event went so well—and it was inspirational,” she says. “I wanted to create more events—and that, basically, is where the Palm Springs Dance Project came from.”

Carozza produced an event called the Palm Springs Dance Festival over the last several years.

“In 2019, I listened closely to what our community was looking for—and that was dance education for our local students,” Carozza says. “We were able to develop a program where all of the students that we brought in would be covered under a grant and receive intensive dance training. It’s really been a grassroots effort between local donors and local collaborators.”

Those collaborators in the Palm Springs Dance Project include the Palm Springs Unified School District and FIND Food Bank, which provides free lunches for the students.

The upcoming events will not only help fund programming costs; they’ll also help introduce the project to the community. First comes Dancin’ in the Streets, a flash-mob performance, set to take place at Village Fest in downtown Palm Springs from 6:30 to 9 p.m., Thursday, March 5.

“It’s going to be a great event for the community. Everyone can get some flavor of the program, with some entertainment, because we’ll have our students performing alongside some professional dancers,” says Carozza.

Deborah Brockus, the program’s artistic director—and an acclaimed dancer in the Los Angeles dance scene—is the choreographer.

“What Deborah has done and is doing now is creating customized choreography based on our dancers’ strengths,” Carozza says. “You’re going to see some classical contemporary dance, hip hop and jazz. It will be energetic and entertaining; they’ll be running out with spotlights and loud music.”

At 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 6, students will be given their moment to shine in the Community’s Finest Showcase, a “pre-professional” variety show at the Annenberg; tickets are $25 to $28.

“Our scholarship students will be performing for the community, but we have invited many of the dance studios (in) Palm Springs. … That will showcase the training and education that is available right here in Palm Springs,” Carozza says. “Students will dance to genres like lyrical, modern, hip hop and jazz, among others.”

At 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 7, all eyes will be on The Main Event: An Evening of Extraordinary Dance, a professional concert dance program. BrockusRED, founded by Brockus, is set to perform alongside Luminario Ballet and Lula Washington Dance Theatre at the Annenberg. Tickets are $55 to $130.

Carozza says the audience can expect an “energetic, powerful and uplifting program of dance. We’re very excited, because we will also be staging the first-ever aerial dance at the Annenberg Theater.”

The dance will be performed by Luminario Ballet, but the Palm Springs Dance Project had the hang point permanently installed to be used in the future.

Carozza says she’s trying to expand the reach of the program through different mediums—and the Palm Springs Dance Project has partnered with the Palm Springs Cultural Center to show dance-oriented films, including a Sunday, March 1, screening of Billy Elliot, with a post-movie discussion centered around #BoysDanceToo. Panelists will include former Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo member Howard Sayette, musical choreographer/director José de la Cuesta and choreographer/director Douglas Graham.

“We want to grow and broaden our programming for events year-round,” Carozza says. “Really, our goal is to build a thriving dance community in the greater Palm Springs area. We want opportunities to really engage and give back through the staging of these events.”

For more information, visit www.palmspringsdance.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

P.S. Resorts, a coalition of Palm Springs hotels and tourism groups, recently paid almost $30,000 to a consulting firm in an effort to determine what new events would draw the most tourists to the town.

Meanwhile, in Palm Desert, the folks at the McCallum Theatre think they may have already figured out what event could become the valley’s next big thing.

Welcome to the first Palm Desert International Dance Festival.

“If you love dance, where better to be than Palm Desert in November?” said Jeffrey Norman, the McCallum’s director of communications and public affairs.

The brand-new festival kicks off with something that’s actually been around for years: the McCallum’s 16th Annual Choreography Competition, an event that brings in dance companies, both professional and pre-professional, for two days of performances, on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 9 and 10. Then the McCallum will host three of the world’s more unique and renowned dance companies: I.aM.mE on Wednesday, Nov. 13; Lula Washington Dance Theatre on Friday, Nov. 15; and Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal on Saturday, Nov. 16.

Norman said the increasing popularity of the Choreography Competition led McCallum president and CEO Mitch Gershenfeld to the idea for the festival. Gershenfeld approached city of Palm Desert officials about the idea, and they were happy to jump on board.

“The aspiration, really, is that this becomes another signature event in the valley,” Norman said, adding that it will take several years, at least, before that happens.

In the dance world, the Choreography Competition already is a big deal. On Saturday, Nov. 9, a dozen dance groups from across the country will compete as Jacques d’Amboise, a veteran of New York City Ballet and a MacArthur Fellowship recipient, receives a lifetime-achievement award.

One of those dozen competitors is Lauren Edson, who won last year’s top prize in the competition. The Boise, Idaho, native and Juilliard graduate has won several other competitions. She entered the McCallum competition last year, in part, because her parents now live in Palm Desert.

“I gathered a group of dancers from Boise who I trust and really respect and admire as artists,” she said. “… We were eager to perform and share the work we’d done.”

However, eagerness is one thing; paying to bring six dancers from Boise to Palm Desert for several days is another. She mounted a successful $5,000 Kickstarter campaign last year to pay the way.

Well, success often leads to complications: In part because of her win last year, Edson finds herself more in demand, so this year, she and her dancers had to find a way to pay for trips to New York and Texas, as well as Palm Desert. That meant this year’s Kickstarter campaign—again successful—was for $15,000.

Edson and her dancers will perform her 11-minute work “I Hit the Ground.” (“The maximum’s 11 minutes, and I am coming in right at 11 minutes,” she fretted.)

“The work really deals with this one couple as a central relationship, and the changing of the power dynamic in the relationship,” she said.

On Sunday, Nov. 10, the second day of the Choreography Competition will feature 11 pre-professional choreographers, mostly from schools and organizations in the Western U.S. Also on the bill are performance exhibitions from local students who are participating in the McCallum’s East Valley Dance Project, a program of the McCallum Theatre Institute that reaches some 1,200 East Valley middle school and high school students. Norman said the inclusion of local students is “dear to his heart.”

“We see every day the impact that exposure to the arts and immersion in the arts makes on kids’ lives, especially kids who might not have had the opportunity (to be exposed to the arts) otherwise,” he said. “Study after study shows how immersion in the arts helps children learn better.” As part of the festival, some area students will be treated to daytime dance shows at the McCallum, too.

After several days off, the festival returns to the McCallum stage on Wednesday, Nov. 13, with I.aM.mE. The dance crew, featuring four men and two women between the ages of 15 and 28, won the sixth season of MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew with what they call their “Brain Bangin’” style. According to the I.aM.mE website, “The style is a series of connections and large-scale visuals that create shapes and puzzles with the human body.” (Find videos of the crew online, and you’ll see exactly what that means.)

Two days later, on Friday, Nov. 15, a slightly more traditional—but no less innovative—dance group will take the stage. The Lula Washington Dance Theatre got its start as a nonprofit organization that offered an outlet to minority dancers from South Los Angeles. Today, the group is a renowned group whose modern dance reflects African-American culture and history.

On Saturday, Nov. 16, the festival will conclude with Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal. While “ballet” is part of the 40-plus-year-old company’s name, the group also melds modern dance, street dance and other styles into in its energetic and often humorous works.

Both Norman and Edson said that shows like America’s Best Dance Crew, which ended last year after seven seasons, as well as ABC’s ever-popular Dancing With the Stars, have made dance in its various forms more widely popular—therefore paving the way for the Palm Desert International Dance Festival to exist.

“(These TV shows) broaden the scope and the reach of dance,” Edson said. “… It’s wonderful that the McCallum is broadening the whole event. There really are people who love so many different facets of the medium today.”

The Palm Desert International Dance Festival takes place Saturday, Nov. 9, through Saturday, Nov. 16, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Ticket prices for the events vary. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Theater and Dance