Lake Tahoe Dance Festival: Breaking boundaries in ballet

Lake Tahoe Dance Festival performance. | Lake Tahoe Dance Collective

A fantastic celebration of world-class dance will soon take the stage on the shores of Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake for the 11th annual Lake Tahoe Dance Festival.

The event begins on July 26 at Gatekeeper’s Museum in Tahoe City with an opening night gala where audiences will enjoy a silent auction, food and wine and a special presentation of indigenous hoop dancing by the founder of AkaMya Culture Group, Sage Romero. The performances continue on July 27 in Tahoe City, on July 28 in Incline Village, Nev., at a special location and on July 29 at Donner Lake’s West End Beach in Truckee.

This one-of-a-kind, outdoor dance festival features a blend of contemporary and classic performances by Adrian Danchig-Waring, Joseph Gordon and Ashley Bouder of New York City Ballet; Kristina Berger of Erick Hawkins Dance Company; Dwayne Brown of Metropolitan Opera Ballet; Amber Neff of New Chamber Ballet; Kyle Limin of Concept.04; Lia Cirio and Paul Craig of Boston Ballet; Stephen Hanna of Broadway Dance Center; and Lake Tahoe Dance Collective’s local students.

“It’s not a narrative dance, but a human dance … between two people trying to resolve a conflict. There’s a muscularity and tension as we dance for each other.”
–Adrian Danchig-Waring

One highlight is sure to be “To Each in His Own Time,” danced by Adrian Danchig-Waring and Joseph Gordon.

“The piece was choreographed by Lar Lubovitch in the 80s at height of the AIDS epidemic,” says Danchig-Waring. “It was a meditation for processing the grief and loss of a gay man watching so many of his friends die. It’s about the emotional power of showing up for your friends when their lives are cut short.”

Same-sex duets in ballet are historically rare, but choreographers are increasingly working with the concept of androgynous roles as an alternative to more traditional male and female gendered roles.

“It’s not a narrative dance, but a human dance,” says Danchig-Waring. “It’s a dance between two people trying to resolve a conflict. There’s a muscularity and tension as we dance for each other. I don’t know if there is necessarily a resolution, but it ends in a different place than where it begins, so there is certainly an evolution throughout the dance.”

After meeting at New York City Ballet, Danchig-Waring and Gordon have been dancing and romantic partners for the past eight years.

“Our real life experience kind of mirrors the arc of this dance,” says Danchig-Waring. “You learn a lot about yourself through the experience, how to communicate skillfully and the relationship grows because of it. For 20 years, I’ve been partnering these fine, thin, light ballerinas and now I’m partnering with Joe who is the same size as me. It plays with the conception of what a man is and isn’t. There’s something cool about it. It’s not immediately comfortable. You have to give up a certain kind of control and learn how to hold yourself differently.”

After performing in Tahoe last summer, Danchig-Waring is looking forward to returning to the intimate, family-friendly festival that features incredible artistry in an equally beautiful setting.

“Ballet at the level we practice it is the perfect integration of athletes and artists,” says Danchig-Waring. “It’s a pure and mathematical language. At every juncture in history, artists use it to communicate urgent ideas about what it is to be a human today. It’s such a beautiful way to spend an evening by the lake, the water glittering in the background while the sun is setting. People are on their picnic blankets right next to stage. Young kids are running around the fields. You can be so close to the energy, the sweat and the artistic expression. We all live in these bodies and I think seeing dance up close like this reminds us that our body is a tool for communication and expression.” | laketahoedancecollective.org