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Laguna Dance Festival to stage its fall performance at the Irvine Barclay

Parsons Dance Co
The New York-based Parsons Dance Company will hold performances and a workshop with the Laguna Dance Festival in September.
(Lois Greenfield / Courtesy of Parsons Dance Company)

The Laguna Dance Festival is raising the, um, barre on its autumn show by staging it at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

Laguna Beach, however, will remain in first position for the rest of the series’ 2019 schedule.

For the record:
4:50 PM, Mar. 27, 2019 This article originally stated incorrectly that the free summer performances at the Festival of Arts are weekly. Typically they are on two Sundays.

For the fall installment, the festival will dance 20 minutes up the road to a space that is nearly double the size of its main home at the Laguna Playhouse, where the festival has held its fall performances for the past seven years.

“It’s time to think broader about how we can impact our community with the performing art of dance,” said Jodie Gates, the festival’s director.

September’s performances include a weekend of shows and a workshop with the New York-based Parsons Dance Company and the RubberbanDance Group of Montreal. Both troupes have performed at the Barclay. Another group, to be announced later this week, will join the Sept. 27-29 performances.

Jerry Mandel, president of the Irvine Barclay Theatre, said he was thrilled to collaborate with Gates on the upcoming shows.

“This is, as far as I’m concerned, a win-win for everybody — for our audiences, for the Laguna Dance Festival, for everybody, and a great opportunity for us to work with Jodie,” said Mandel, who formerly served on the Laguna Playhouse’s board of trustees.

Gates said the opportunity to stage performances in Irvine is a case of “turning lemons into lemonade.” She needed a venue for the specific weekend in September and said she was unable to confirm the dates with the playhouse in time.

Then the opportunity arose to move from the nearly 400-seat playhouse, which is undergoing remodeling, to the 750-seat Barclay.

It will give audiences who are accustomed to the intimacy of the playhouse’s Moulton Theatre a different experience, she said.

“That’s OK. That’s lovely,” Gates said. “Irvine Barclay was made for dance.”

It’s too early to know whether the festival will hold its fall show at the Barclay in future seasons, she said.

The Barclay, which is adjacent to UC Irvine, has lighting, an orchestra pit and a stage designed for dance performances, Mandel said.

“It was a natural for her to move it here,” Mandel said.

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RubberbanDance Group, based in Montreal, will perform at the Irvine Barclay Theatre during Laguna Dance Festival weekend Sept. 27-29.
(Bill Hebert / Courtesy of RubberbanDance)

The September performance will highlight choreographer David Parsons’ signature piece, “Caught,” which features a soloist leaping more than 100 times in six minutes. Parsons last brought the work to Laguna as part of the 2013 festival.

Gates, a former Joffrey Ballet principal, said she is excited to blend her audience with the Barclay’s but was quick to add that the festival, which is heading into its 15th season, remains dedicated to its roots.

“We are still the golden gem of Laguna Beach,” she said of the renowned series, which has hosted Misty Copeland, the first African American female principal with the American Ballet Theatre, as well as Complexions Contemporary Ballet and other major companies.

Gates said she hopes the local audience she has cultivated will make the short trek to Irvine.

“My hope is that our brand is strong enough, that our Laguna dance lovers will come, and that also not to worry, that Laguna Beach is very much a part of our identity, but our future vision includes a broader community,” said Gates, who also is vice dean and director of USC’s Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.

Aside from the fall show, the remainder of the 2019 Laguna Dance Festival performances will be local. The festival will hold a summer dance intensive in June at Laguna Beach High School, free performances during the summer at the Festival of Arts, and a November show with New Zealand performer Black Grace at Laguna’s Neighborhood Congregational Church.