Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Sharp’

NY City Principal Jock Soto’s Piece Performed Friday

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Jock Soto came to Idyllwild to choreograph a Native Arts dance

By Marcia E. Gawecki

To close off Native American Arts Week at Idyllwild Arts, two faculty dancers will perform a piece choreographed by Jock Soto, retired principal dancer for the New York City Ballet, during his visit to Idyllwild Arts a couple of months ago. The Pas de Deax will be performed at 7 p.m. at the IAF Theatre on campus.

When Jock Soto retired after 25 years as principal for the New York City Ballet in 2005, he wrote a book about his life and career for Random House. He said that he was fortunate that he was able to learn dances quickly so that people liked to work with him. He credits his mother, the first female hoop dancer, with giving him strength.

He still teaches ballet at the School of American Ballet (SAB) in New York where he learned how to dance professionally.

Tonight, Soto’s piece will be performed by his friend, Jonathan Sharp, and Ellen Rosa, from the Idyllwild Arts dance department. It features original music by Laura Ortman, a White Mountain Apache, who is a musician and composer from Brooklyn. The Cahuilla Birdsingers also will perform.

Over the years, Jock worked with many choreographers, including George Balanchine, who personally asked him to join the New York City Ballet.

Jock said that he enjoys choreographing dances, like the Pas de Deux that he will be performing with Laura tonight at 7 p.m. at the IAF Theatre on campus. Like all events at Idyllwild Arts, it is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.idyllwildarts.org or call (951) 265-6755.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

NYC Ballet Principal Jock Soto Visits Idyllwild

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Jock Soto in Idyllwild

By Marcia E. Gawecki

More than 100 featured ballet roles were written for him.

For 25 years, Jock Soto was the principal ballet dancer for the New York City Ballet, and left when he turned 40 years old in 2005. Since then, he wrote a book about his dancing career (because Random House asked him to), including his mother’s strong influence.

She was the first female Navajo hoop dancer.

“She used hoops to mimic the movements of eagles and horses,” Jock said. ”

Random House asked Jock to write his memoir soon after his mother’s death.

“At first, I didn’t want to do it,” Jock recalled. “But then I realized it would be a nice tribute to her. But I also wanted ballet dancers to know that there’s life after dancing.”

Since he wrote the book, Jock has graduated from culinary school with a business degree. Jock still teaches ballet at the School of American Ballet (SAB) in New York where he learned how to dance professionally, but he is at Idyllwild Arts this week teaching Master Classes.

He reconnected with Jonathan Sharp, a dance instructor at Idyllwild Arts, through Facebook, and is now on tour teaching other students about ballet. As a promise to his mother, he went to Canada to teach indiginous students about ballet.

“They know modern, but surprisingly not ballet at all,” he said.

At Idyllwild Arts, however, the 35 or so dancers who live at the boarding school know about ballet. Many of them have been dancing since age 5, like he did. But he went to New York at age 13 to dance at the American School of Ballet (but there were no dorms back then), and ended up living in an apartment with eight other students.

“My parents didn’t want to live in New York, so I stayed and went to school there,” Jock explained. “Our apartment was in a nice area about three blocks from the school (SAB). I had just left Arizona and was pretty naive.”

Did bad things happen to him in New York? Many of them are outlined in his book, “Every Step You Take,” now available for $18.99 new (or $5 used) on Amazon.

Well, he gave up his high school academic studies, but not his dancing classes, and joined the New York City Ballet at age 16. By age 21, he was their principal dancer, the youngest in their history.

On the cover of his book, “Every Step of the Way,” it shows Jock leaping through the air. He was only 16 when the photo was taken. He looks like an angel in flight.

Jock said he became successful as a ballet dancer because he was quick.

“You had to learn about 100 different dances in a year,” Jock explained. “So if you could learn them quickly, people wanted to work with you.”

Over the years, Jock worked with many choreographers, including George Balanchine, who personally asked him to join the New York City Ballet. He said that he toured the world, and never wanted to leave for any other company.

Besides his memoir, Jock wrote a cookbook with Heather Watts, and PBS produced a documentary in 2008 called, “Water Flowing Together,” that takes you from his roots on the Arizona reservation to principal dancer at the New York City Ballet. Peter Martens said Jock had a “natural grace,” a remarkable career who left a terrific impact on the world of dance.

“I think they’re going to show the documentary at Idyllwild Arts this week,” Jock said.

You can view an excerpt of Jock’s video online at www.pbs.org.

As he drove up from Palm Springs to Idyllwild, Jock said that the area reminded him of Taos, New Mexico, where he has a summer home that he rarely gets to visit.

“This is just beautiful,” Jock said as looked down at the creek and up at the 100-foot pines. “I think I’m going to like staying here.”

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Fall Dance Concert Opens Tonight

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Delaney's dramatic pose graces the promotional posters. Courtesy photo.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Tonight at 7:30 p.m., the Fall Dance Concert will open at the IAF Theater on the Idyllwild Arts campus.

There will be approximately nine dance numbers, including modern, jazz and classical pieces. One unusual ballet piece, choreographed by staff member Jonathan Sharp, has a modern twist.

“I’m so excited that I’ll be in Jonathan’s piece,” exclaimed Simian, a new dancer.

Originally from Mississippi, Simian earned a scholarship to attend the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program this past summer, and Jonathan recruited him for the academic year. In general, there are about five female dancers to every male dancer.

Simian explained that Jonathan’s ballet number is about cuisine, but also a love triangle.

“It’s about a pot, a potholder and a spatula,” Simian explained.

“It’s really funny,” another dancer said. “You should see Simian jump!”

Simian said that in one number, he leaps across the stage. A feat that not many dancers can achieve, I’m sure.

Gerard, a graduating senior, will be in three ballet numbers.

“It’s good practice for me,” Gerard said. “I’m looking forward to the show. It’s going to be great!”

Ellen Rosa, head of the Dance Department at Idyllwild Arts, is just back from maternity leave and looking sharp. In her absence, Jonathan Sharp was acting director.

Ballet dancers during student choreography last year.

Last week, Ellen said practice was going well, and the dancer on the poster was Delaney, a senior.

The Fall Dance Concert opens tonight, Wednesday, Oct. 16, at 7:30 p.m. at the IAF Theater (in the Bowman Building) on the Idyllwild Arts campus. The show runs Thursday and Friday nights. All concerts are free and open to the public, but arrive early to get a good seat.

For more information, visit www.idyllwildarts.org or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Nov 16, 2011 @ 16:47

 

Dance Students Prepare for “The Nutcracker”

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

(from L) Idyllwild Arts dance students Ricardo, Maddy, Gina and Mauricio prepare to dance in "The Nutcracker" with the Inland Pacific Ballet

By Marcia E. Gawecki

For many of us, “The Nutcracker” was our first introduction into the magical world of ballet. The Nutcracker prince, the Sugar Plum Fairy, flowers, snowflakes, dolls and soldiers–every fantasy came alive through dance.

This holiday season, dance students from the Idyllwild Arts Academy will be performing “The Nutcracker” with the Inland Pacific Ballet Company. The four teenagers, Gina, Madison, Mauricio and Ricardo, tried out in September and were accepted to perform.

“We got to audition because of Jonathan,” said Mauricio, a post-graduate dance student who had performed in “The Nutcracker” in Mexico.

Jonathan Sharp is the acting head of the Dance Department at Idyllwild Arts, and a professional dancer with the Inland Pacific Ballet Company. He also teaches ballet at their academy.

“I thought it would be a good experience for the Idyllwild Arts students to dance along with professional dancers in the company,” said Jonathan, who will be among them.

Twice a week until early December, the four dance students practice along with other students from the Inland Pacific Ballet Academy in Montclair. There, they take two classes, which last about three hours each.

In their Saturday class, they were learning how maneuver a Chinese Dragon.

Wait a minute! I don’t remember a Chinese Dragon appearing in “The Nutcracker” of my youth.

“There are many different versions of ‘The Nutcracker,’” Mauricio explained. “In this one, they have a Chinese Dragon.”

Th red, yellow and black Chinese Dragon, made of wire and material, had a large head, winged ears and a laughing mouth. A tall dancer was selected as the leader who would maneuver the dragon’s head. Behind him, the dragon stretched another 25 feet, held up by seven other dancers with sticks, including the guy handling the tail.

In this class, the instructor was teaching them how to throw their sections of the dragon over their heads, while they jumped over to the other side. These movements made the dragon move. However, each dancer had to be quick  and not step ahead or pull too hard on the dragon.

If they did everything right, the dragon looked like it was moving seamlessly across the stage.

“Nice feet!” the instructor yelled to Gina and Ricardo as they ran along with the other dancers. They had to exaggerate their “happy feet,” which looked like a straight-legged run.

Gina dances a modern piece during an Idyllwild Arts Student Choreography event last year

After a couple of times in which the teacher switched out the dancers, she brought them around her and gave a pep talk about the culture and dance.

“Remember, you are the dragon,” she said to them. “You are one with it.”

When the dancers laughed nervously at this comment, the instructor emphasized that they will always be visible to the audience.

“We can see your every move onstage,” she warned. “And all of the looks on your faces.”

Once the dance students got all got the twirling motions and jumping motions down, the instructor added “The Nutcracker” music to make it authentic.

At one point, the instructor showed Mauricio how to maneuver the dragon’s tail. She made slow, sweeping motions, like someone in a flag corps would do.

“I understand what she was expecting out of me,” Mauricio said. “But the other girls were pulling the dragon every which way!”

At times, the instructor would call the dance class over to look at her laptop of the Inland Ballet Company’s “Nutcracker” performance from 2010.

Although the Idyllwild Arts students are not getting paid for the nine “Nutcracker” performances held at the Bridges Auditorium and the Lewis Family Playhouse in Montclair from Dec. 3 to Dec. 18, Gina said they were fortunate.

“At least we don’t have to pay $300 to $400 dollars to be part of the production,” she said.

The dance students from the Inland Pacific Ballet Academy have to pay that amount to cover costs of their extra classes, costumes and various production costs.

Although the practice schedule is hectic and the Idyllwild Arts students must travel nearly two hours each way twice a week, they all agreed that it was worth it.

“It’s going to be really exciting to dance along with professional dancers,” Mauricio exclaimed.

Maddy, a National Honor Student and president of the senior class, made the most of her time in the school van by doing her homework.

“This is better than in my dorm room because there’s no distractions,” she said.

Looking ahead, Gina also thought it would look good on her resume when she applied for colleges.

The public performances for “The Nutcracker” by the Inland Pacific Ballet Company will be held from Dec. 3 to Dec. 8, with mostly 1 p.m. performances at the Bridges Auditorium and Lewis Family Playhouse in Montclair.

For more information, call (909) 482-1590 or visit www.ipballet.org.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Nov 1, 2011 @ 18:33