Laguna Dance Festival Celebrates 15th Season


The three-day festival kicks off Friday, Sept. 27, at Irvine Barclay

By Christopher Trela | NB Indy

How far can a dance company raise the barre?

In the case of Laguna Dance Festival, which has a history of presenting the best national contemporary dance companies and artists, they are raising it higher than usual for the organization’s 15th season, which takes place Sept. 27-29 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

On Sunday, Sept. 29, Montreal-based RUBBERBAND takes the stage to perform “Vic’s Mix” during the Laguna Dance Festival. Photo by Bill Hebert.

Laguna Dance Festival, which has cultivated a loyal local audience as well as dance fans from out of town, has always used the Laguna Playhouse for its dance presentations. However, the Playhouse has been programming so many shows and special events that this year there was no room in the schedule, so Laguna Dance Festival had to look elsewhere. They settled on The Barclay, just a few miles up the road from Laguna Beach.

: Opening the three-day Laguna Dance Festival on Friday, Sept. 27, at is New York-based Parsons Dance Company. Photo courtesy of Parsons Dance.

“We have long enjoyed a warm, mutually beneficial relationship with the Laguna Playhouse, but as a result of the Playhouse’s success and expanded programming, fewer dates exist on their booking calendar in the fall months, and we were unable to receive a confirmation in time to announce our festival,” said Laguna Dance Festival Founder and Artistic Director Jodie Gates. “The upside is the opportunity to expose more Orange County arts lovers to our performances and mission, and the Irvine Barclay Theatre is an exceptional dance house. We are still all about our hometown, Laguna Beach, and are looking at the 2020 season with new partnerships and exciting collaborations.”

On Sunday, Sept. 29, Montreal-based RUBBERBAND takes the stage to perform the complete “Vic’s Mix.” Photo by Bill Hebert

“We are thrilled to be able to host the Laguna Dance Festival for its 15th anniversary performances,” noted Jerry Mandel, President of Irvine Barclay Theatre. “Jodie Gates has built something truly special for the community and it is the perfect complement to what we do with our dance series, Dance@theBarclay.”

One challenge for Laguna Dance Festival is the move to a larger venue. Laguna Playhouse seats around 420 people, while The Barclay holds about 750 patrons. This of course means more tickets to sell, but the dance troupes coming to Laguna Dance Festival this year are truly special and should draw dance fans from throughout Southern California.

Opening the three-day festival on Friday, Sept. 27, at 7:30 p.m. is New York-based Parsons Dance Company. Parsons Dance is a contemporary company, internationally renowned for its energized, athletic ensemble work. Artistic director David Parsons and Tony Award-winning lighting designer Howell Binkley founded the company in 1985. It has toured to more than 30 countries and five continents.

Laguna Dance Festival brought Parsons Dance to Laguna Beach in 2008 and 2013 to perform “Caught,” Parsons’ signature work. Leaping more than 100 times in six minutes, a high-powered soloist appears to never touch the ground as a precisely timed strobe light catches the dancer in midair. “Caught” will once again be performed at the Laguna Dance Festival on Sept. 27, along with five other short pieces created between 1982 and 2019.

On Saturday evening, Sept. 28, at 7:30 p.m., it’s a chance to see a mixed repertory program from three ballet companies: Parsons (“Caught” and “Eight Women”), RUBBERBAND (an excerpt from “Vic’s Mix”) and Ballet West (“Rubies Pas de Deux” and “Sweet and Bitter”).

On Sunday, Sept. 29 at 2 p.m. RUBBERBAND takes the stage to perform the complete “Vic’s Mix.”

RUBBERBAND is a Montreal-based company exploring the fusion of contemporary ballet and hip-hop. The company was founded in 2002 by choreographer Victor Quijada, a Los Angeles native. The company’s style has been described as “a unique dynamic that’s both tough and elastic…true to their name, the group’s performers move together as if connected like a rubber band.”

Ballet West was established in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1963, and has since toured the world to present its remarkable repertoire, including works by renowned contemporary choreographers such as Jiří Kylián, Mark Morris, and Twyla Tharp. Under the guidance of artistic director Adam Sklute, Ballet West also preserves its American classical ballet legacy.

Tickets to each performance are $45 with student ID, $65 general, and $100 VIP tickets which include prime seating and a reception in the Barclay’s Jade Room during intermission. Visit or for tickets and more details.

For those unfamiliar with Laguna Dance Festival, it was founded by Jodie Gates, a former principal dancer with The Joffrey Ballet, Frankfurt Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet and Complexions Contemporary Ballet. When she retired, Gates moved to Laguna Beach but kept busy by starting a dance festival, which has flourished and grown over the years into a respected and exciting showcase for contemporary dance.

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