DANCE : Soviet Dance Company Is Step Ahead of Mayor

Mayor Maureen O'Connor and her arts task force may or may not return from Russia with commitments from top-flight groups for a Soviet Arts Festival in San Diego, but in the meantime local dance devotees won't have to hold their breaths.

The vivacious, 75-member Georgian State Dance Company will be performing at the Civic Theatre for eight performances of authentic Georgian folk dancing beginning July 19.

The unlikely sponsor of this attraction is not one of San Diego's two major dance presenters, but James M. Nederlander, an organization best known to local dance fans for touring shows that come into town under the umbrella of the San Diego Playgoers Series.

"We present a lot of dance," said Dixie Burton, operations manager of the Nederlander organization, "and we've discussed bringing dance down to San Diego before this, but it was a question of not having time available. We wanted to bring the Bolshoi here, but the logistics weren't right. The Georgian dancers just happened to fall at a time when we could arrange dates in San Diego."

Does that mean Nederlander may put San Diego on the touring circuit for dance as well as theater?

"We're really not trying to be in competition with anyone," Burton said. "But we know how the city of San Diego and the mayor want to bring Russian artists here, so this seemed perfect. And we're still trying to work out an agreement to bring the Bolshoi to San Diego the next time they come. We'll present dance here when the timing is right."

It has been more than a decade since the saber-wielding men and elegantly gliding women of the Georgian State Dance Company have graced any American stage. But, after a lengthy sold-out stay in Paris and Cannes, and a stint in Los Angeles, the troupe is finally headed our way. The energetic program should be a hot ticket during the summer lull in big-league dance.

"It's good family entertainment," Burton pointed out, "because there's a lot of leaping and excitement in Georgian-style dancing. Children don't get bored."

Although show-biz glitz has replaced the original folk fervor in this highly theatrical production, the exhilarating display of dance may whet San Diegans' appetites for more cultural expressions from the Soviet Union.

Despite competition from San Diego Performances, the San Diego Foundation for the Performing Arts has exceeded its fund-raising goal for this season by more than $20,000, bringing the total for the year to an impressive $343,829.

Danah Fayman, president of the foundation, announced that the goal for the 1988-99 season has been raised to $375,000.

"This year's contributions represent a 110% increase over the highest level ever reached by the foundation in previous seasons," Fayman said. "The number of contributors doubled, from 220 to 527."

The foundation also has come a long way in building a working board. Said development director Fred Colby: "Our first board was involved in name only, but now all our board members are active, hard-working members. That makes quite a difference."

Three's Company's Jean Isaacs returned from her first European tour, a 20-day teaching and performing swing through Switzerland, and her optimism was as high as an Alp.

"It went very well and we got more work for next year," Isaacs said. "We'll be visiting more cities and doing more teaching in 1989. Our work was all new to them, and they really liked the performances. We set a new piece for two of their girls. They'll be dancing it in Zurich in November."

San Diego dance buffs will see the same piece, performed by two of Three's Company's dancers, in one of the troupe's upcoming concerts.

"Dance Exists in North County" is more than just the title of next weekend's concert by a group of seven North County choreographers. It's a defiant declaration from a contingency of dance makers who seldom get their rightful place in the limelight.

"It's a real problem. Many people have had no exposure to the North County choreographers, because we don't get the chance to work down here, and they don't get up to see us, said Faith Jensen-Ismay, coordinator of this grass-roots concert. "We've done some concerts at Palomar College, but there aren't many opportunities there either."

As a result, Jensen-Ismay, Jacqueline Weiss, Mary Neuru, Linda Illig, Ray Caldito, Terry Wilson, and Terri Shipman will pool their resources and perform a concert of modern dance at 8:30 p.m. July 16 and 17 at Three's Company's Hillcrest studio.

"Each of us is completely independent," said Jensen-Ismay, a dance maker who appears with Three's Company, "and we'll all be responsible for our own choreography. It's going to be a super-eclectic program, and I'll be coordinating it, so they won't have to worry about anything but getting their own work shown. Some of these dancers could have done a whole evening on their own, but some would never have been able to do it without this arrangement."

The potpourri includes Weiss' "Sleepy Time Down South" and "Pages from a Diary" (a tribute to the memory of Anne Frank), Neuru's "Sides of Catheryn," Caldito's jazzy "Edgewise," Illig's "Time Off," Shipman's "Metamorphosis," Jensen-Ismay's "Willie Make It?" and Wilson's "Serpentine."

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