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Subject: "Bay Area Dancing: The Early Years, 1915-1965,Koret Auditoriu..." Archived thread - Read only
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #2710
Reading Topic #2710
Renee Renouf Hall

07-05-02, 05:52 AM (GMT)
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"Bay Area Dancing: The Early Years, 1915-1965,Koret Auditorium S.F. Public Library, April 27; ODC Theatre April 28"
   I was part of the steering committee for the two days delving into San Francisco's somewhat immediate past, and chaired the ballet panel. My report doubtless reflects partisanship and already received the disdain of someone involved in dance viewing who arrived in the Bay Area some twenty-five years later. An intriguing part of history is one starts with the assumptions prevailing at the time one arrives on a scene. With media overload, it is almost axiomatic that interest for what happened previously is not given to many, certainly not to the aforementioned critic.

The conference was sparked by a video tape shown at the June,2000 Dance/USA Conference titled "Dancers in Exile." Rapt Productions,
talked to dancers who arrived in San Francisco circa 1975, feeling "exiled" from the New York scene, never mind local practitioners.

Joanna Harris decided to hoist the banner for what had prevailed from the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915, when more than 8 million visitors came to San Francisco between February and early December, due in part to the onset of World War I, but abetted by extraordinary merchandising. Alumni Classes, B'ni Brith, states, counties, all rallied to the wonders of the early Twentieth Century wonders to be seen in what is now San Francisco's Marina district.

Loie Fuller came with her dancers, all unnamed, and from June 1
until it must have gotten too cold, was to be seen. Ruth St. Denis and Anna Pavlova danced at the Cort Theater, and local
schools put on periodic performance.

For the Symposium, the ballet panel comprised Phyllis Thelen,a gifted graphic artist,whose daughter's love for ballet involved Phyllis in nearly 30 years of fundraising and administrative tasks with Marin Ballet School;Jocelyn Vollmar and Sally Bailey representing the early San Francisco Ballet years under Willam Christensen and a Lew Christensen recently returned from service in World War II; Ronn Guidi, a product of Raoul Pause and the founding director of Oakland Ballet, noted for its reconstructions during his artistic directorship; Angene Feves, who went from European exposure through association with David Lichine to various small companies in directorial positions, additional training with Guillermo del Oro, requiring round trips of 300 miles to participate. For a refined activity, their energy and commitment had to be rough, ready and quick to improvise.Video tapes of a backstage rehearsal and performance of Lew Christensen's "Beauty and the Beast" and Ronn Guidi's first choreography to Handel were shown.

The Modern Dance Panel, chaired by Joanna Harris, included Judy Job, whose continuation of Peters Wright Studio makes that institution 90 years old; Gloria Unti, who trained under Hanya Holm's protege Mimi Kagan; Frank Shawl a late comer (1960) to the Bay Area; Crystal Miller Mann, a Virginia Tanner project who worked with Welland Lathrop; Margaret Jenkins who started with Peters Wright before moving on to UCLA and Merce Cunningham; Geraldyne Washington whose entire career was spent teaching dance at the high school level. This period covered The San Francisco Dance Council; The San Francisco Dance League and a whole era where dance was involved with The Labor School and social protest. The teachers, like Carol Beal and Lenore Peters Job, spent their summers studying at Jacob's Pillow or Bennington. Missing on the panel was a representative of the Quitzow family who continued the Duncan dance tradition at Temple of the Wings in the Berkeley foothills, a very special pocket in Bay Area dance history.

Modern dance video tapes included Marian Van Tuyl dancing in the Greek Theater at Mills College where she established the dance department;Welland Lathrop in a part of his Triptych; a Duncan-like section of Lenore Peters Job and daughter Judy in a film titled "Mother and Child"; a section of Ruth Beckford in a recent PBS documentary and Anna Halprin in a section of Parades and Changes after she ended her relationship with Welland Lathrop.

The third and final panel of the dance represented the Ethnic Dance Communities, chaired by Carlos Carvajal, the choreographer starting his career as a folk dancer and crediting his basic education in dance and music to the San Francisco Recreation Program. Sharing the panel were Nemesio Paredes and Ernesto Hernandez, both flamenco exponents arriving from different traditions. Paredes commented on the dances taught in the
Filipino community,a small group because of the Asian Exclusion Acts of the first half of the Twentieth Century with
restrictive property covenants in place until after World War II; Magana Baptiste, one of the Area's early exponents of Middle Eastern dance whose late husband Walt started San Francisco's first yoga studio; Sidney Musser, a 40-year member of Chang's International Folk Dancers, the oldest such organization in northern California.

Brief film clips were shown of Chang's dancers; Ernesto Hernandez at the entrance to the Old Spaghetti Factory and Magana Baptiste.

The day whizzed by,recorded on video tape, a dusting of history,
well and affectionately remembered by audience and panelists alike. The shape of Joanna Harris' enterprise is remarkably diverse. Involved or observer, this acknowledgement and effort reminding the current dance community the yeast for today's activity came from somewhere besides their imagination was long overdue.

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