Here's Why You Should Say Yes to the West (Coast)

May 29, 2017

When it comes to the West Coast, it’s easy to see why L.A. often steals the show—flashy classes, performances and companies, all under the captivating Hollywood lights? It’s a dance lover’s dream. But the West also offers tons of other strong dance communities, and they’re worth knowing. Packed with everything from renowned ballet companies to boundary-pushing contemporary groups, here are the non-L.A. dance hubs that should be on your radar.

San Francisco, CA

Everything about San Francisco feels iconic, from the Golden Gate Bridge to Chinatown to the War Memorial Opera House, where San Francisco Ballet, the country’s oldest ballet company, performs. If you can tear yourself away from sightseeing, you’ll quickly realize that the dance scene is booming.

The Scoop

• At the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, you can take several different summer intensives, or audition for the year-round program. Want to explore cutting-edge contemporary dance? The Conservatory offers Ohad Naharin’s Gaga movement language and William Forsythe’s Improvisational Technologies.

• ODC’s home is appropriately called a campus: The sprawling complex includes a wellness clinic, a Pilates studio and a school offering hundreds of weekly classes—plus a performing company, ODC/Dance. Choreographers can even produce their own work in the 170-seat theater.

• San Francisco Dance Center is home to Alonzo King LINES Ballet and its associated BFA program at Dominican University of California. A day of classes at its open program might mean sharing a barre with LINES company members—and then running down the hall for flamenco.

• In the fall, don’t miss the San Francisco Dance Film Festival, which features everything from international shorts to feature-length documentaries.

“As a young dancer, I was able to study everything from ballet and modern styles like Gaga to authentic Bollywood and classical Chinese dance in San Francisco—the opportunities to immerse myself with the experts were right there. Having exposure to so many genres has given me a unique dance voice.” —Mia Chong, apprentice at ODC/Dance

Alonzo King LINES Ballet’s Michael Montgomery and Kara Wilkes (RJ Muna, courtesy Alonzo King LINES Ballet)

Las Vegas, NV

Vegas often attracts dancers seeking commercial or showgirl opportunities, thanks to its award-winning resident productions, like Britney Spears’ Britney: Piece of Me and Jennifer Lopez’s All I Have. But the city also offers lots for modern and ballet lovers.

The Scoop

• One of the city’s first contemporary groups, Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Founded by Bernard H. Gaddis and Charmaine Hunter, the company performs a repertory of over 40 contemporary ballets.

• Nevada Ballet Theatre offers several full-length classical ballets each season, and its academy is top-notch.

• Molodi Live is a performance group that blends collegiate stepping, tap and hip hop in energetic pieces with complex body percussion and rhythms.

• The New Dance Foundation is home to Kelly Roth & Dancers, a renowned postmodern company whose choreographer, Kelly Roth, is in residence at the city’s College of Southern Nevada, too. The organization also hosts the annual Las Vegas Dance in the Desert Festival, attracting top dancers from around the country.

• Acclaimed dance programs at University of Nevada and College of Southern Nevada allow students to study everything from tap, jazz and ballroom to dance history.

“The Las Vegas dance community is small, but I love that about it. It’s given me the opportunity to meet and share the stage with so many different, talented artists. And it’s always great to see familiar faces in the audience.” —Marie-Joe Tabet, associate artistic director and dancer with Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater

Ballet BC in “Solo Echo” (Michael Slobodian, courtesy Ballet BC)