April 2, 2014

Spirit and passion take the stage in “Earthly Flight”
By Chandra Smith

Photos courtesy of COM Performing Arts Department, Kim Foulger

Photos courtesy of COM Performing Arts Department, Kim Foulger

Each spring and each fall the College of Marin Dance Department produces and performs a dance concert that is not to be missed. This year’s “Earthly Flight”, the name of 2014’s spring show, is no different. 

This year’s show is described by the department as “An eclectic array of beautiful dances embracing memory, time, passion and reflection. It’s about personal experiences, humanity, inspiration and what’s most important to us.”

Truly a community production, the dancers are all students, alumni, or members of the community. Each dancer must audition, be selected, and then sign up through the college in order to perform.

This year’s spring concert will showcase seven different choreographed pieces. Most of the performers have studied dance through the department here at COM, in classes such as Afro-Haitian, modern, jazz, and ballet.

Hannah Piette is one such student. “I love dancing with COM,” she says. Piette is a COM alumni and skilled community dancer. This being her fifth dance concert at COM, it’s easy to believe her.

Hours of work and rehearsal go into the performances, it’s an extremely positive experience for all involved. This year’s choreographers include six department instructors and leaders, and one community guest who has been invited to participate.

Sandra Tanner’s piece is called “What Remains.” It speaks to the changing landscape of the heart, as it pertains to its relationship with memory and the passage of time.

Alan Scofield is presenting “Sonnet for Seven,” born of the passionate humanity we find in the Sonnets of Shakespeare, and alludes to both the timelessness and brevity of life.

Casey Thorne is our guest for the spring, and the founder of Inside Out Contemporary Ballet. For Earthly Flight, she is sharing with us “If I Were You.” A truly community-inspired piece, it incorporates written contributions by members of voluntary workshops, expressing how dance brings about connection. The writings have been expressed through both the large-scale sets, and through the choreographic process.


David Jones is sharing “Night Club,” which brings into the conversation the significance of hip hop and recreational dance. “Spirit” expresses the best of that which lies within us.

Deborah Graham brings us “Gypsies in the Night,” which starts with two gypsies warming themselves by a bonfire, and evolving of course, into a passionate dance.

Kristi Kuhn’s “What Goes Up” is a performed commentary on our human condition—on the necessary vicissitudes we all experience for being alive. After all, what goes up…

Kuhn was kind enough to speak with us about her piece. She is both a choreographer of the show and one of the coordinators of the department. Her piece sounds dangerous, involving nine women, and starts on a seesaw.

Kuhn has been teaching dance at COM since 1987, and is especially looking forward to the performance of her dancers this year. “It’s a very difficult piece. The dancers are balancing on each other and playing on a seesaw. How scary is that?” Definitely worth a trip to campus one night.

This year the guest artist for the spring is Casey Lee Thorne of Inside Out Contemporary Ballet. Thorne took her experience of adversity and turned it into a dance company. Started in 2006, it meant a lot for Thorne to provide opportunities for dancers to practice their art.

“As a teenager who studied ballet since she was three, her dream of becoming a ballerina was crushed when her teacher told her she was too tall,” reports the Marin IJ.

How do choreographers come up with the dance moves for their pieces? “Oh my God—you know it’s funny, because my class tonight is on composition, and that’s exactly what we cover,” said Kuhn.

If you want to illicit both irritation and an interesting answer with one question, simply ask an artist of any kind how they come up with their ideas. “Sometimes it’s the music and sometimes it’s life,” says Kuhn with pith.


November 26, 2013

‘Physical Graffiti’ staged at James Dunn Theater
By Kyle Dang

Jenner Musser, one of the dancers in “Physical Graffiti,” performs a striking Arabesque move.

Jenner Musser, one of the dancers in “Physical Graffiti,” performs a striking Arabesque move.

The College of Marin hosted a two-week run earlier this month of “Physical Graffiti,” a dance concert, featuring guest performances from the San Domenico Dance Ensemble, Branson Dance Performance Ensemble, and the Primus Ballet Theatre, the concert was a stylistically diverse showcase of young and upcoming talent in the Marin dance scene. It was an opportunity for students of COM’s performing arts department to participate in a live show, and to network with other local dancers.

The concert was held in the James Dunn Theatre on the Kentfield campus, and ran for four nights. The first and second nights featured guest performances from Branson and Primus, with the third and fourth nights featuring San Domenico with Primus.

Directed by Georgia Ortega, the Branson Ensemble performed three dances. The last dance, Sixth Sense, was an excerpt from Perception of the Senses. The dance will be presented in February 2014 at Branson School’s annual Body Talk dance concert.

“It was a very fun show. Very energetic and youthful,” said Kentfield resident Debra Ward.

The San Domenico Dance Ensemble was joined by Domenico’s Advanced Vocal Ensemble for their single performance, Freedom. Directed by Lily Kane, it stood out from all the other performances of the night.

Pre-recorded music was used in every routine on every night, except during Freedom, where the Vocal Ensemble provided the aural backdrop. The Primus Ballet Theatre performed every night of the concert. Choreographed by Cole Companion, Allegory of the Cave is based on Plato’s epynomous story. The allegory is told in the form of a conversation between his Brother, Glaucon, and his mentor Socrates. It is one of the most studied pieces of Plato’s most well-known work, The Republic.

“I’ve always wanted to do the Platonic works,” said Companion.” I’ve become obsessed with the idea of imperial thinking and objective reality, and as a result of that, Socrates always comes to mind. I read The Republic to prepare.”

Every night was opened with COM dance instructor Alan Scofield’s Flock Logic, a mercurial routine that switched repeatedly between heady interpretive chaos and synchronous calm. Hip-hop and Jazz dance instructor David Alonzo Jones choreographed two shows for the concert. Let the Groove In, a routine set to Justin Timberlake’s song of the same name, and Big Spender, a sizzling 1920’s burlesque set to Dorothy Field’s Sweet Charity that set fire to the theatre.

Intermission was proceeded by Bereft, choreographed by Sandra Tanner. Dedicated to her mother, it is an attempt to “honor the memory of our relatives who perished at the hands of Hitler’s Third Reich.” It was a somber performance telling the story of a mother, father, their three girls, and the breaking apart of their family by war.

“I was really touched. It was very sad, I almost cried,” said theatre patron Caroline Reynolds.

The concert concluded with Kristi Kuhn and COM ballet students. Set to Vivaldi’s La Folia, A Gathering was a flowing blue river of dancers featuring the pas de deux of Cammy Schinner and Christopher DiViase.

April 16, 2013

A moving performance: Dance production features themes of past, present and future

By Jasmin Demil

Jessica Sarkisian Schwartz floats across the stage in “By George!”, a performance piece featuring music by George Gershwin.

Jessica Sarkisian Schwartz floats across the stage in “By George!”, a performance piece featuring music by George Gershwin.

The College of Marin enjoyed another exciting event in the James Dunn Theater this season. The 2013 spring dance concert, called  “Moved”, was created by the dance faculty of College of Marin. Choreography was produced by College of Marin Dance Faculty, and Production Design by “Ernie” Ernstrom. The performances started on March 29 and continued through April 6 at the Kentfield Campus. Featured guest performers  include Kale Isabella, Annalise Thompson, and Casey Lee Thorne.

Isabella performed “Self Portrait,” which touched upon themes of identity and its evolution.

David Alonzo Jones’ “Mayhem” combined Hip Hop,  Jazz elements and the African-American dance style “Wobble” to create an explosive performance.

“Buscando,” also performed by Alonzo Jones, featured a hip-hop duet.

Alan Scofield’s “Pains and Pleasures” evoked emotions such as jealousy, love and passion.

Two solos were presented by guest artist Annalise Thompson.

Erin Dersti choreographed both “Dulamon” and the modern piece “Esmeralda,” which told a very peaceful story. Together they were like a cool breeze after a hot summer day.

From guest artist Casey Lee Thorne, of Inside Out Contemporary Ballet, came an excerpt from “Dance Anyway”, which recalled the phases of one’s life, with all the conflict of the past, present and future.

Sandra Tanner’s ‘Levedad Del Ser,” which translates as the lightness of being, was an energetic dance set to the music of Rodrigo y Gabriela, A.

“George,” choreographed by Deborah Graham, was a piece set to the music of American composer/songwriter George Gershwin.

Kristi Kuhn’s “Beyond” was a duet where the memories of the past came alive to the music of Chopin’s Nocturn No. 7 in C# Minor.

Kuhn, one of the Performing Arts instructors, explained that “Moved” has a lot of personal meaning to the performers.

“None of the dances have anything to do with each other. They are not tied together.  Each choreographer created what they envisioned, including the music,” she said. “It takes 4 hours [of work] for every one minute to perfect the dance.”

Kuhn also noted, “To be able to become a good choreographer with creative ideas, you have to be a keen observer of life.”

Despite losing  one of the most talented dancers to a health issue, the show was a success.

According to COM students Lisa Kelly and George Tapi, the only complaint about the show was that not enough people saw it.

“It was the best show in a long time, but it was not promoted very well,” Kelly said.

The Performing Arts Department presents many fine concerts, plays, and dance performances every year for the college community and the public. “Moved” is one more in a long line of stellar performances from the College of Marin Drama Department. The next production from the Drama Department will be “I Hate Hamlet,” which will be performed on April 25 in the Studio Theatre.

Nancy Mimms performs “Pains and Pleasures”, a moody interpretive dance.

Nancy Mimms performs “Pains and Pleasures”, a moody interpretive dance.

February 2013

New dance studio opens after long wait

Dance students practice their choreography in the new dance studio.

Dance students practice their choreography in the new dance studio.

By Lisa Kelly

After five long years, the wait is over for College of Marin dance students and teachers. The brand new dance studio is officially open and in use, an endeavor nine years in the making.

“The bond was issued in 2004.  It took that whole nine years of planning and working,” said  Deborah Graham, dance choreographer at College of Marin.

The choreographers had plenty of meetings and sessions in the span of time it took to acquire the space, let alone start building it. “I had meetings the entire way through,” said Kristi Kuhn, another of the six dance choreographers at the school.

Until the new space was ready, the dancers were holed up in a temporary space known as MS3, a portable studio in the middle of campus. “I was planning for both spaces at the same time, that was a riot,” said Kuhn.

COM ballet dancer Jenner Musser has been dancing at the school for two years, she said she is “so excited for the new space. This place is so much better, the other spot was so small. Plus it’s so nice to have windows!”

The new studio is not only in a spot that gets plenty of natural sunlight through the various large windows in the room, it is also conveniently and aptly located in the Performing Arts building. “This is where it should be,” said Kuhn. “This space was specifically made for dance. Plus now the drama students and music students can see us and observe what’s going on here.”

The room is not only a smart room, meaning it has built in wireless connection and a special sound system and projector capability. It also has state of the art “sprung” floors.  “The floors are maple with special sprung pads built in.  It’s for joints so it doesn’t jolt your body,” said Kuhn.

In addition to the main dance studio there is a second smaller adjacent space.  This space was specifically designed for the choreographers to have a place to rehearse small groups and solos. “It’s gonna be so nice to not have to choreograph stuff in my kitchen anymore,” said Kuhn.

Dancers and teachers alike are excited to have a place to call their own that doesn’t feel secluded and tucked away from the rest of the school. Not only is the new space conveniently located in the Performing Arts building, it is also equipped with a box office which will come in handy for future dance shows and performances.

The new dance studio can be found in the recently renovated Performing Arts Building.

The new dance studio can be found in the recently renovated Performing Arts Building.


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