Lake Tahoe Dance Festival | Moving mountainscapes through dance

Christin Hanna and Constantine Baecher | Jen-Schmidt

The fifth annual Lake Tahoe Dance Festival will feature the world premiere of a piece inspired by and choreographed for performance in Tahoe’s beautiful highland basin. “Mountainscape” is a duet festival co-director Constantine Baecher created especially for this year’s event.

Lake Tahoe Dance Festival
July 26-27 | 6 p.m. 
Gatekeeper’s Museum | Tahoe City
July 28 | 6 p.m. Truckee Regional Park Amphitheater | Truckee

“Being in Tahoe surrounded by the mountains is an incredibly inspiring sensation, as I’m sure you know firsthand,” says Baecher. “For a number of years since first coming here, I’ve been intrigued by somehow working that sensation of close proximity to something so ancient, vast and awe-inspiring into a dance piece, but was never sure how to go about it.”

By chance, one day this spring Baecher and his collaborating dancer Traci Finch were attending a show of French-born American artist Vicky Colombet’s work in New York City. While looking at her series of drawings “Les Brumes” (The Mists) something clicked. The inspiration for the movements had suddenly appeared.

“I’ve been intrigued by somehow working that sensation of close proximity to something so ancient, vast and awe-inspiring into a dance piece, but was never sure how to go about it.”
– Constantine Baecher

“Sometimes creating dance works like that, you spend ages going round and round an idea unsure how to manifest it — then suddenly boom, a complete vision of the piece comes together in the mind’s eye,” Baecher says.

He is now prepared to present the world premiere of this modernistic piece on a stage nestled within the very mountains that first inspired his creative vision.

“It will be incredible to premier this work outdoors in the Sierra Nevadas,” he says. “Both Traci and I have been to Tahoe many times now and it holds a special place in both our hearts. Add on top of that this piece is something we never could have made without the experience and influence of being in the mountains there and it is sure to be a very special experience.”

This year’s program also features original choreography by three artist who are new to the festival: James Graham, Alejandro Cerrudo and Justin Peck.

“All three of these choreographers represent the full range of the spectrum from contemporary dance to classical ballet,” says festival founder Christin Hanna. “James worked extensively with Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv [Israel], which is one of the greatest companies around today and his own twist in his work with that base is really fascinating. Alejandro’s duets are very sensual. He also created a work that he danced with Wendy Whelan in ‘Restless Creature,’ which shares a similar quality to the piece we’re presenting — it is very elegant in its simplicity. Finally, Justin Peck has become one of the hardest working people in dance and for good reason: his work has an extreme physical energy, there is nothing precious about it. You can really feel the dancers pushing from one step to another.”

Hanna herself will be dancing with Damien Johnson of London’s Ballet Black in a deeply personal pas de deux she choreographed this year. It is entitled “Departures.”

 

“My husband has been going through some medical stuff this past year,” she says. “We’ve been living without answers for a long time. As partners in life, we couldn’t be more solid in standing by one another as we face all kinds of ambiguities. A ‘departure’ to me represents both the act of leaving something behind but also setting out on a new adventure. This happens over and over in life and it has been a great time to evaluate what kind of person I want to be as an artist and an individual and as half of a partnership.”

By bringing contemporary choreographic artists and world-class dancers to Tahoe, Hanna and the Lake Tahoe Dance Collective are creating a space for beauty and expression to resound from the soaring crests of the breathtaking mountains to the boundless caverns of one’s ever-imaginative soul.

“While dance doesn’t necessarily tell plot or narrative better than other art forms, where it excels is in creating worlds that speak directly to the heart by passing the need to intellectualize or verbalize,” says Baecher. “In the case of “Mountainscape,” the work is like a visual poem. When dance is very good it causes a resonance of truth inside the viewer which does not require words. One simply understands and is moved.”

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit laketahoedancefestival.org.

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Sean McAlindin
Sean McAlindin is a writer, musician and educator based in Truckee. When he's not drafting new story ideas, he can be found jamming with his Celtic bluegrass band, Lost Whiskey Engine, hiking for a local back-country powder stash or hanging out with his daughter, Penelope.