Trolley Dances

Documentary covering the San Diego Trolley Dances the director describes as "much more than a record of six original site-specific dance performances."

0:00Copy video clip URL Color bars. 

1:47Copy video clip URL Trolley Dances intro.

2:21Copy video clip URL Multiple people say whether they’re familiar with “trolley dances” or not. Several are unfamiliar, but those who do know what the trolley dances are explain how they came across them.

2:44Copy video clip URL Paul Jablonski, CEO of the Metropolitan Transit System, explains the Trolley Dances. “These dancers, they draw attention, they bring people, they see these connections. That’s what it’s about.”

3:00Copy video clip URL At Smart Corner/City College Stop, dancers Annie Boyer, John Diaz, Liv Isaacs-Nollet, Greg Lane, Bradley Lundberg, Veronica Martin-Lamm, Jessica Reed de Cancel, Sadie Weinberg, and Danielle Bodeau perform Imagine a Mexican Restaurant by choreographer Jean Isaacs. They finish the dance to thunderous applause, the audience then leaving to catch a trolley to journey to the next dance.

5:22Copy video clip URL Six months earlier, Jean Isaacs, founder and artistic director of the trolley dances and Sharon Hancock, the project director for the Trolley Dances, search for potential performance sites. The two give a basic outline of the trolley dances to a person at a potential site, introducing themselves as members of San Diego Dance Theater. “We go out on the trolley line every year with MTS, ” says Isaacs. “We bring the audience on the trolley […] to the sites,” supplies Hancock.

6:11Copy video clip URL Isaacs and Hancock speak with John Diaz, a choreographer, to brainstorm sites. “It’s enjoyable getting really messed up. Like, really confused about what we’re doing. Just trying to figure out how– what the logic is for it. Because there is some strange logic to it, but it’s not really evident,” says Diaz.

6:35Copy video clip URL Hancock and Randé Dorn, a choreographer, visit another Lillian Place, trying to decide whether the energy of the site fits Dorn’s vision.

7:14Copy video clip URL Dorn and Jordan Szabal, one of Dorn’s dancers, discuss about collaboration of choreographer and dancer in creating a dance from their respective perspectives. “For us performing, we’ve really found we have to find the layers in the piece,” says Szabal. “It’s literally standing there with Jordan and thinking what might be interesting on her body,” Dorn explains. “Ultimately, I’m asking them to be vulnerable in front of, like, a hundred people. And I’m asking them to trust me. And I have to earn that.” Robby Johnson, another of Dorn’s dancers, describes coming across the limits of his body and the experiences of working with different choreographers. Dorn expresses her passion for dance.

9:09Copy video clip URL In a small, industrial-looking hallway (at Lillian Place-Outside Corridor/1401 J St.), Szabel and Johnson perform To Start Again, choreographed by Dorn. A crowd of spectators watch the performance. Various people pass by the hallway while the performance is happening.

10:52Copy video clip URL A trolley headed to Old Town honks its horn. Dancers express their interest in the trolley dances.

11:15Copy video clip URL The Auditions segment begins. A female dancer bearing a card with the number 30 performs a slow contemporary dance as other potential dancers watch on.

11:41Copy video clip URL Jean Isaacs, founder and artistic director of the Trolley Dances, speaks to the perspective dancers on a specific goal of the trolley dances: “The concept is to make pieces that are specific to the environment that we go into. It’s East Village. We don’t bring preset pieces and impose them on the space; that’s not the idea.” John Diaz leads the auditioners in a dance. Renae Tynes, a dancer, introduces herself. Diaz reads off the list of accepted dancers, and Tynes speaks on her excitement upon being chosen.

12:54Copy video clip URL Spectators move to a gazebo at Sheldon House/1245 Island, the site of another dance: Attack of the Swiss Gardeners, a piece choreographed by Isaacs. On the steps of the gazebo, dancers Kate Harrison Brill, Suzanne Choplin, Yvonne Harguindeguy, Liana Hesketh, Pam Jong, Anjanette Maraya, Kevin McEuen, Minaqua McPherson, Jesus Ponce, Lavina Rich, and Renae Tynes perform in gardening attire, holding shovels and other gardening equipment as they do so.

15:20Copy video clip URL At Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego/Santa Fe Depot, Diaz and his dancers Martha Aguiniga, Viviana Alcazar, Abby Avery, Eugenia Chen, Christina Domino, Jenn Esses, Irene Hsi, Christina Kelley, Marissa N. Nunes, and April Taylor rehearse their Trolley Dance. Says Diaz, “I trust my eye. If I see something and I know what’s coming next, then I’m not interested, and a lot of these people that I looked at and I chose, they showed me something that my eye was not expecting.” Martha Aguiniga, one of Diaz’s dancers, enthuses about working at Diaz. “He’s very organic, and he lets us work with our own creative process. He doesn’t impose.”

16:09Copy video clip URL Jean Isaacs instructs dancers during a rehearsal of Attack of the Swiss Gardeners. Jesus Ponce, one of Isaac’s dancers, discusses his long commute from Tijuana and his subsequent connection to the gardeners. 

16:36Copy video clip URL Yolande Snaith, another choreographer, works with two of her dancers inside Wheelworks/1205 J St., instructing them on how to play with the dynamic between the two of them during a specific portion of the dance.

17:15Copy video clip URL A trolley conductor directs the audience to the site. Signs reading “Park and Market,” and “Gillespie Field,” hang overhead.

17:26Copy video clip URL At Lillian Place-Community Room/1401 J St., Kyle Abraham performs his self-choreographed piece, Untitled 10:07:07. “The truest sense of performing comes when you can show your self,” says Abraham over footage of the dance. “I don’t have to dance like a ken doll to be a man, and I don’t have to dance like I’m in a Madonna video to exude femininity.” Abraham talks about bringing sexuality and racial identity to his work.

20:37Copy video clip URL Nancy Graham, President of the City Centre Development Corporation, explains why many of the trolley dances are held at Lillian Place. “There’s a very significant African-American cultural history [at Lillian Place].” The audience travels from the trolley stop at One American Plaza.

21:17Copy video clip URL Back at the Santa Fe Depot, dancers perform Concourse Dance by John Diaz. Travelers stop to watch the performance.

22:40Copy video clip URL Dancers Alexis Cabral, Jillian Chu, Anna de Vuyst, Anthony Diaz, Amber Hamer, Kevin Ho, Carrie Prince, Brian Schaefer, Donna Webb, and Heather Zornes-Almanza cluster around a long wooden table to perform Ten Green Bottles Standing on the Bar by choreographer Yolande Snaith. Snaith watches the performance intently.

26:58Copy video clip URL Audience members give their interpretations on Snaith’s piece. 

27:23Copy video clip URL Trolley Dances outro plays.

27:35Copy video clip URL Credits play over a shot of a trolley passing by Diaz and his performers as they rehearse their piece. “When you are in a work situation day after day and you come down and you experience something like this, it awakened some internal creativity that I have tucked away for a long time, and it was really inspirational,” an audience member says, closing out the documentary.



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