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Dance Fest to Take a Second Bow

Visiting New York City Ballet dancers Tiler Peck and Joaquin DeLuz performed at the just concluded Laguna Dance Festival.

It turns out that lightning can strike twice.

Jodie Gates, founder of the Laguna Dance Festival, is moving the event from April to September, beginning this year. As a result, dance lovers have only five months to wait for a second round, Sept. 6 to 9, also at Laguna Playhouse.

San Francisco’s Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Orange’s Backhausdance are already on the roster. To fulfill its other mission educating emerging dancers, between Aug. 20-31 the UC Irvine dance department will conduct workshops with the companies for dancers age 13 and up.

As a measure of the festival’s success, two of the four Laguna Dance Festival performances sold out the Playhouse and the two other shows well attended.

Karen Wilson, a dance festival board member, described the performances as “jaw-dropping beautiful,” while praising the exchange of energy between the dancers and their audience.

“Laguna audiences are not quiet, they applaud easily and dancers feed off that energy,” she said. “We have turned a corner now from being Laguna’s best kept secret to becoming known, which feeds the Laguna art colony vibe,” she said.

Other changes show the festival is maturing. Dancers no longer bunk at board members’ homes; contracts require hotel stays and dancers were put up at the Pacific Edge Hotel. Three master classes taught by visiting dancers and choreographers drew a total of nearly 100 students. And the lobby drew newcomers. “I saw people in the theater that I had never seen at performances before,” said another board member, Nancy Meyer.

“The way the festival was received this year is above and beyond anything I have ever experienced before,” said Meyer, a supporter since the festival’s inception in 2005.

In a statement, Gates said, “The dance festival not only brought great dance to our community but we also made a difference in people’s lives. I look forward to sharing our September line-up with our audiences. I am certain it will evoke the same excitement.”

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