A chance to dance
Festival offers master classes and a chance to perform
If Leanne Rinelli's students were worried about having only five days to master a series of dances to be performed to the public this Sunday, their graceful, fluid movements didn't show it.
Hips swayed and feet tapped to the Latin music emanating from the speakers in the Mountain View Masonic Lodge as students in the Contemporary Technique and Repertory Workshop followed Rinelli in a combination of steps to a dance. Rinelli verbally coached her class on upcoming steps as she whirled alongside them, joking as they tried to remember a combination of especially complicated and quick motions.
"It's fun, I promise," she laughed. "I hope you come back tomorrow."
Rinelli, a dancer and teacher at State University New York at Brockport, came to Mountain View this week to teach her choreography in a workshop open to any interested dancers. Her steps will then be performed, along with other dances, in the Bay Area's first International Dance Festival Silicon Valley on Sunday, Aug. 26, at 2 p.m. in San Jose's Hoover Theater, The a festival organized by the dance group the Lively Foundation. Six or seven dancers from the class will perform with Rinelli in the final performance, she says.
The participants in Rinelli's class, all women, represent a range of ages and experience. Despite the short time frame they had to learn the various dances, they seemed assured in their ability to quickly master the motions.
"Dance should never be stressful," says Tammy Todd, a participant in the workshop and a dancer in the semi-professional, Palo Alto-based dance company High Release Dance.
The Lively Foundation's artistic director, Leslie Friedman, also taught a technique and repertory workshop. Like Rinelli's class, it began on Monday and is scheduled to end on Friday. The festival's final event before Sunday's performance — a "Full Day of Dance" on Saturday, Aug. 25, in the Mountain View Masonic Lodge — will offer Pilates, contemporary dance, tap, and Irish set dancing master classes for any interested participants, with no prior experience necessary. Friedman says she hopes the enthusiasm and expertise of the teachers will provide students who attend any of the Full Day of Dance classes with a valuable experience learning new or different kinds of dance.
"These (instructors) are people who just have such a wealth of experience, and such a love for what they do, that you can't be around them without that rubbing off," Friedman says. "Even if you are an absolute beginner, to be around them, you'll learn something and it lifts you up."
Friedman has encouraged dancers from across the country to come to Mountain View, where the week-long workshops are held, and learn from the experienced teachers she has pulled for the festival. These teachers include Rinelli and well-known Irish step dancer Larry Lynch. The final performance will include contemporary dances by Rinelli and her selected dancers, another contemporary performance by dancers from Friedman's workshop, tap performances by master class teacher Audreyanne Delgado, and an Irish dance performance by Lynch.
Rinelli says she is also planning an improvisational performance that will include herself, dancers from her workshop, and Saturday's master class teachers.
One of Rinelli's dances, which she will perform alongside members of her class, is a three-part dance inspired by the Chinese artist and political dissident Ai Weiwei.
"I like his ideas of speaking out against society," Rinelli says.
Friedman says she hopes the festival's dance classes will provide encouragement for dancers seeking to learn technique, choreography, or even a whole new form of dance. While the workshops taught by Rinelli and Friedman cater to more experienced dancers, would-be dancers without any experience are encouraged to attend any of the Full Day of Dance master classes.
"Some dance classes, all they do is tell you what's wrong," Friedman says. "That's not what this is about. This is about expanding your experience. And I want the audience that's out there, whether they're dance people or just people who are kind of curious, to come and enjoy it."
The Lively Foundation, a dance company based in San Francisco, was founded around Leslie Friedman to support her work as a dancer. The company performs dance and music concerts for the public, publishes a journal called "The Hedgehog," and provides educational dance programs for schools. Friedman herself does all of the choreography.
Registration for the Full Day of Dance starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 25, at the Mountain View Masonic Lodge where the master classes are held. Individual classes costs $25, with a discounted price of $64 to attend all of the master classes. Tickets to the final performance at Hoover Theater cost $15. More information is at livelyfoundation.org, or by emailing Friedman at firstname.lastname@example.org.