May 18 2012
Daily Stuff- Today we have a treat. Of sorts.
Here in San Diego, we have an organization called the Commission for Arts and Culture. The Commission serves in an advisory capacity to the city promoting, encouraging, and increasing support for the arts. The Commission is made up of... commissioners. One of their jobs is making site visits and interviewing local arts groups to get a better idea of the organizations. Today, I hosted one of the commissioners, Dea Hurston, at our offices and gave her a tour of the site.
The "official interview" is quoted below.
D - This is Dea Hurston with the San Diego Arts Commission in discussion with Javier Velasco co-founder/co-director of the San Diego Ballet. Hi Javier! Its great to be here for this visit.
J - Hi Dea! Glad to see you here in our neck of the woods.
D - Lets start with a brief history of the San Diego Ballet.
J- Well, the San Diego Ballet is a nonprofit 501 (c) 3 organization that was founded in 1991. We did so in a close association with Robin Sheretz Morgan's San Diego Ballet School. But they are two separate and distinct entities.
The company has a large repertoire, much of it based on pieces created by me. We generally do about 2 or 3 world premieres a year. Our stuff is created with our diverse Southern California audience in mind. We feature pieces like "Mambomania" (set to the music of Perez Prado), "Opus... Swing!"(to big band music), " A Taste of Honey" (to Herb Alpert), lots of stuff to popular music. But we also do experimental pieces performed to the spoken word and classical ballets like Nutcracker and A Midsummer Night's Dream. We were the first San Diego Company to perform George Balanchine's Serenade and Rubies.
In the past, we have collaborated with the San Diego Symphony, Orchestra Nova, as well as dance organizations such as Culture Shock, San Diego Dance Theatre and others.
San Diego Ballet’s educational outreach program reaches thousands of San Diego County children every year, both through in-school outreach and educational matinees. Oh and we also tour. Every year, we take our Nutcracker and other ballets to the Mid and Southwest states.
D - The next question, Bring me up to date about your successes in the last year.
J - Well, the beginning of the year saw our re-staging of "Alice:Wonderland", which was part of a program that we do in collaboration with Young Audiences of San Diego and Culture Shock, a hip hop dance troupe. Every fall, we perform a series of 6 collaborative matinees for San Diego County School children. This is the 8th year of the highly successful collaboration. On the same program, we had two world premieres by me. One was a neoclassical piece set to a Stravinsky score and the other, in keeping with our mission, was set to new age mambo music from Cuba. It was called "Echale Salsita". Winter brought our "Nutcracker" onslaught. We toured our production to Montana. This is the 10th year, we have toured the show. In San Diego, we performed it at both the North Park Theatre (with the Grossmont Symphony and Master Chorale) and at Mandeville Auditoriium (with the San Diego Children's Choir). In February, we remounted our popular "Romeo et Juliet" as well as highlighted pas de deux from our past 20 years. March gave a sneak preivew of next year's world premiere, full-length "Don Juan". All the while, we continued presenting our educational outreach shows in schools throught the county, as far east as Alpine and as far North as Carsbad, with some trips to Imperial Beach. Oh and we also did a few industrials with the dancers where we flew out to Vegas.
D - Wow! It sounds like you have had a very exciting season.
J - Sure.
D - I am especially interested in Don Juan. Could your tell me more about that and any other plans you have for the upcoming season?
J - Ok. Well. I am not really that personally interested in story ballets. But our audiences love them. It also makes good commercial sense to build seasons around them. It doesn't hurt that I also direct and choreograph (and lately write) musicals. So I am comfortable with storytelling. And I want to make sure that we are being sensitive to our audince.
We have a large Hispanic community in San Diego. A very popular production in Mexico is called Don Juan Tenorio. They do it everywhere and it is often an annual event. My dad has often asked me, "Why doesn't anyone do it in San Diego?"
So I have been exploring different versions of the Don Juan tale (there are a few) and trying to find one that made sense for us. Both as something for our community and as something that would serve our dancers. And thanks to Lord Byron, I think I have come up with it.
We are also very fortunate in that we have the service of a very excellent, mature male dancer, Max Tchernychev. Someone that the piece can be built around. So I am am very excited about this piece. But that's not all we are doing.
Our fall show will, of course, feature a another premiere, yet to be announced, as well as returning favorites. And Nutcracker is ... Nutcrcaker. Eternal. We also have another interesting project. I will be choreographing Chopin's 24 Preludes as a web series. One prelude will be choreographed and presented online each week of our season. People can tune in every Friday night to see a new piece.
D - Did I say, "Wow that's exciting already?"
J - Kind of.
D - At this point in time, what is SDB's greatest struggle?
J - Hmmm. Hmmm. I can come up with fancy way to say it or beat around the bush... but like all non-profits, our greatest struggle is identifying and securing the funds necessary to not just survive in this economy but to grow, flourish, and best serve our community. Some of this comes from needing to increase brand awareness. Some comes from educating the public, donors, funders, and people who have lots of money that arts (in general and ballet specifically) are not just worthy of being funded, but essential to the well being of a community.
D - It seems like you have a firm grasp on the issue and that's half the battle on overcoming the struggle.
J - Yes, grasp. Such a desperate word.
D - What would the commission be surprised to learn about the San Diego Ballet?
J - Oh, I don't know. Does anything surprise anyone who has had a long association with the arts and the way they are managed and survive? But I do think the commission might be surprised by the national reputation and acknowledgement of the company and its good works. It's very difficult in these days of shrinking newspapers and magazines to get reliable articles that speak to this. However, every year, we recieve hundreds of inquires by dancers seeking employment, who want to be part of what we are doing.
D - Thank you, Javier. You have been very open and gracious.
J - My mother taught me well.
D - I have one last question for you...
J - $5,000,0000
D - No. As a commissioner, what is the most important thing you want me to take away from this visit?
J - Well, we haven't talked that much about happiness here. I know that might sound silly, but I really believe in that whole "pursuit of happiness" thing. It is one of the company's guiding principles. So the thing that I'd like you to take away is knowing that we really are happy to be doing this work. We really are happy to be working with the commisision. And we really are happy to be part of the struggle.
D - I love that Javier. Oh, I am sorry. Unfortunately we are out of time.
J - No problema.
D - Thank you so much for spending this time with me. I learned alot and I feel I know more about the San Diego Ballet. Dea Hurston signing off from Dance Place San Diego.