For artists of Lake Tahoe Dance Festival, an annual pilgrimage to the Sierra Nevada is all about creating artistic community in a absolutely heavenly setting.
“It’s really nice to come to Tahoe and dance in the mountains and have this outdoor festival that is so beautiful,” says ballerina Traci Finch. “Everybody gets so excited to dance here.”
July 24-25 | 5:30 p.m. | Gatekeeper’s Museum | Tahoe City
July 26 | 6 p.m. | Donner Lake | Truckee
When Finch first attended the event in 2016, festival director Christin Hanna did everything possible to help her and the other performers feel at home.
“Christin makes the festival feel like family,” she says. “We all stay together and have dinner every night. It’s a great way to get to know everybody in the company. She is so down to earth and immediately easy to get along with, so personal, driven and generous. She’s brought so much dance to Tahoe through her teaching and the festival.”
Dance lovers of all ages will have the opportunity to get to know the troupe themselves during this year’s enchanting set of performances on the banks of Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake. When Hanna founded the festival in 2013, her aspiration was to bring world-class dance to our rural, yet touristic community.
“It’s it definitely important,” says Finch. “The public’s first viewing of dance can often be at local studios or lower quality, so people aren’t going to be as interested in it. When [Christin] brings in world-class dancers to Tahoe, it gives people a respect for what world-class dance is and the value of the art in general. When you see something that is well done, it’s much easier to connect to it.”
Each year, Finch spends her first three weeks here working with local dance students at the Lake Tahoe Dance Collective studio in Tahoe City.
“I love to work in the woods at the lake,” she says. “I love teaching, especially local kids who are interested in the artform. I don’t know if it’s growing up in the mountains, but they come into the studio and they work really hard. There is quality about them that is so open and susceptible to all the corrections that are given. It’s important to pass the torch along in a way.”
Both Finch and Hanna were trained in the neo-classical style of modern and contemporary ballet through years of dancing with some of the best companies in the land. This year’s festival program includes both timeless masterpieces and never-before-seen choreography designed by the dancers themselves.
Stephen Hanna and Abi Stafford from New York City Ballet will dance Agnes de Mille’s intricate and timeless “The Other,” a duet about the play of oppositional forces of life and death, light and shadow, which are the mystery of experience. The piece, which premiered in 1992 with American Ballet Theatre, contains some of de Milles’ most intricate and beautiful dances for two performers. The Maiden and the Lover are allegorical figures representing vitality, love and youth while, dark and powerful in his purpose, the Other represents the inevitable pull and ultimate attraction of Death itself.
For her part, Finch will be performing “Darkness Visible,” a movement choreographed by festival cofounder Constantine Baecher for her last show after a decade with New Chamber Ballet in New York City. Just last month, Finch moved to Palo Alto to open a new Mannakin Theatre and Dance studio with her fiancé Nathan Cottam.
“It’s a beautiful solo,” says Finch of her dance in a nude and black costume painted with red and green watercolors. “It’s I think a little bit sad like you’re leaving this home, but there are also lights at the other end. It felt very much like a farewell in June, but it won’t be a farewell in Tahoe.”
Additional performances are set to include German dancers Daphne Ferberger and Ulysse Zangs of the Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company with Jacopo Godani’s hauntingly romantic “Al Di Là,” Holly Curran of Metropolitan Opera Ballet dancing Roya Carrera’s “Daydreamer” and Damien Johnson of Suzanne Farrell Ballet in a new composition by Finch with Lake Tahoe Dance Collective’s very own Sierra Walsh.
Attendees are encouraged to bring a picnic blanket or low-back chair to the performances along with any food and beverages they’d like to enjoy with the artistic performances. The gala on the night of July 24 includes food and wine. Reservations are encouraged. | laketahoedancefestival.org