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.
Jacoby in Lightfoot León’s Softly As I Leave You (Bill Cooper)
Powerhouse contemporary ballerina Drew Jacoby’s sinewy strength and magnetic stage presence have made her an audience favorite all over the world. After studying at the School of American Ballet, San Francisco Ballet School and Pacific Northwest Ballet School, Jacoby joined Alonzo King LINES Ballet at age 17. In 2005, she won a Princess Grace Award and was invited to dance with ballet superstar Sylvie Guillem. Two years later, Jacoby decided to become a freelance dancer, and formed the partnership Jacoby & Pronk with dancer Rubinald Pronk. An innovator in more ways than one, Jacoby also founded the website DancePulp.com in 2010, which features video interviews with dance stars. She began the next chapter of her dance career in August as a member of Nederlands Dans Theater.
Dear Young Drew,
You may think you are wise beyond your years, but you have a lot to learn. Stay humble. Your drive and ambition will get you far, but don’t let impatience spoil the journey. Try to enjoy each moment and not look too far ahead. This will be a constant struggle for you.
Jacoby at age 10
Remember that success is about more than just raw talent. You’re blessed to have a supportive family and teachers who encourage and push you. That support network will help you through challenging times when things don’t seem to be going your way. And your way is not always the right way. When a door doesn’t seem to be opening for you, it’s probably for the best—there’s a better door right around the corner.
Don’t try to fit any mold. You’ll be grateful for being different one day. You’re going to experience more than you can imagine; store it all up in your heart, and be ready to share it when the time comes.
You’ll have to work harder than most, but artistic satisfaction is worth the effort. Be generous and gracious in your life, as you’ve been given a great one.
Majestic yet modest, ethereal yet grounded: It’s no wonder that chameleon-like Kara Wilkes has become one of Alonzo King LINES Ballet’s MVPs since joining the company nearly five years ago. A Wisconsin native, she danced with Milwaukee Ballet, North Carolina Dance Theatre (now Charlotte Ballet) and Victor Ullate Ballet in Spain before landing at LINES in San Francisco. Catch her on tour with the company through May—and read on for The Dirt. —Margaret Fuhrer
(Photo by RJ Muna, courtesy Alonzo King Lines Ballet)
Who's your dance role model? I've been inspired by a few different colleagues. Each displayed enormous dedication; their love of dance was completely apparent.
What's the most-played song on your playlist? I listen to a lot of classical and jazz. My parents listened to both genres; I was always creating little shows using their albums as a kid.
What's your must-watch TV show? I've watched a lot of documentaries about food—I love cooking and eating! The series "Chef's Table" on Netflix blew me away.
What's something nobody knows about you? I'd like to create/direct a film one day.
Someone who can always make me laugh is... My husband, Justin! He's goofy and witty.
What's one food you can't live without? I'm known to be an avid snacker...Popcorn tops that list.
Do you have any nicknames? Kiki, K-Money, Munzee, Kare-bear...
Who would play you in a movie? I can be pretty silly and nerdy...Jim Carrey?
What was your most recent embarrassing moment onstage? Leotard ballet, one buttcheek out...for way too long. (Sigh.)
What's your advice for young performers? Never stop exploring the unique things your body can do. Forget about who likes you or who doesn't. Revealing your truest self is the most magnificent thing to share. There's no one else like you—enjoy that!
What are you most proud of? Not letting criticism get me down. Working each day at enriching my relationship with dance. It is such a challenging journey, this career...but what a gift it is!
Adji Cissoko landed a job in the corps of the National Ballet of Canada at age 19, after spending only one year at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre. Four years later, the 5’ 9” native of Munich, Germany, has made another bold move: Cissoko recently joined Alonzo King LINES Ballet. You can catch her on tour with LINES this month in Virginia and Connecticut, and in November, the company will present King’s Rasa during its home season in San Francisco, CA. Want to know what makes this ballerina tick? Read on for The Dirt.
(Cody Chen, Courtesy LINES Ballet)
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I speak five languages.
What’s your favorite city in the world?
New York City.
What’s one thing you can’t live without?
What’s your favorite dance movie?
What’s your dream role?
Odette/Odile in Swan Lake.
What’s the most challenging thing about touring with the company?
Packing my suitcase...I always seem to over pack.
What’s your advice for Dance Spirit readers?
Don't ever forget how amazing it feels to just dance and don't get caught up in trying to please or impress others.
I have a confession: I've been a dancer my whole life and a dance editor for 3 years, and, until last night, I'd never seen Alonzo King LINES Ballet. I'd heard phenomenal things, and I'd seen photos—beautiful, perfect images of never-ending limbs, bulging muscles and limitless flexibility. (Several are on Dance Spirit's Pinterest page.) So as I entered opening night of LINES' run at The Joyce Theater yesterday, I wondered if every moment could possibly be as flawless as their photos would suggest. And what I saw was beyond my expectations: So many endless lines, and interesting shapes, and some of the longest legs I've ever seen! Instead of gushing and gushing over these beautiful dancers, I'll just show you some pictures so you can see for yourself.
If you're in NYC, make sure to check out the show. The company will be performing Resin and Scheherazade at The Joyce Theater until Sunday. Click here for more info and tickets.