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Dancers’ presence

Steve Josephson has added another aspect to his multifaceted arts organization.

“In terms of the performing arts, dance is, I think, the least represented in Laguna,” said Josephson, Gallimaufry Performing Arts’ founder and executive director.

So the Laguna native decided to start a new company to fill that perceived void.

Gallimaufry and Greene, co-founded with noted dancer Sean Greene, will premiere both itself and a new work on Wednesday and Thursday at [seven-degrees].

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“I’m probably more excited about this dance company starting than anything else since I’ve been back in Laguna,” Josephson said. “Since Gallimaufry started, I wanted to have a dance company. Since Ballet Pacifica left, there has not been a local dance company.”

Unlike the recently-dissolved Ballet Pacifica, Josephson’s new company performs contemporary dance choreographed by Greene, who studied with Bella Lewitzky and became her principal dancer and master teacher.

Greene appeared on the cover of Dance magazine in 1980; he had become the hero of a generation of dancers, Josephson said.

“Sean is an absolute, true artist,” Josephson said.

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The other major dance presence in town is CaDance, run by internationally known ballet star Jodie Gates.

Gates was hired on a one-year contract as artistic director for Gallimaufry Dance in spring 2005, and struck off on her own last year to found CaDance.

In contrast to Gallimaufry and Greene, Gates’ nonprofit organization operates the Laguna Dance Festival and other events that bring top dance companies to the city. It does not have a standing company of dancers.

Greene an ‘idol’

Josephson had been seeking Greene’s participation in Gallimaufry for some time before the partnership gelled.

Two years ago, Josephson said, he received an e-mail regarding a dance concert at Chapman College in Orange, led by someone named Sean Greene.

“I said, it can’t be the same Sean Greene,” Josephson said, but he went anyway.

It did, in fact, turn out to be the same Sean Greene that Josephson revered in younger years.

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“He was my idol,” Josephson said. “Every single dancer that I knew wanted to dance like Sean.”

Josephson said that every part of the Chapman show moved him emotionally.

“I was floored,” he said. “I was just blown away.”

He met Greene at a question-and-answer period after the performance.

“The one with all the most interesting questions was Steve,” Greene recalled.

He spoke with Greene afterward, and told him his dream of a dance company for Laguna.

Greene didn’t jump at the opportunity.

“I danced 20 years with Bella, and people were always taking her for a ride,” he said. “I hesitated on it for a really, really long time.”

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Enough praise for Josephson — and Gallimaufry — finally persuaded Greene, who at last agreed to work with the company.

“It has been really good,” Greene said. “He has been nothing but enthusiastic.”

Both Josephson and Greene look forward to their new partner- ship, the lines for which have been carefully drawn.

“Like Steve said in the beginning, if I don’t try to do business for him, he won’t try to be a choreographer for me,” Greene said.

Memorable movie scenes

In the debut production, famous scenes from movies as varied as “Bringing up Baby,” “Sophie’s Choice” and “On the Waterfront” intermingle into one long story, using the same actors who quickly morph from Nazi soldier to young, naïve lover.

“They’re from movies I watched while sitting on my mother’s knee at drive-in theaters,” Greene said.

One of six siblings growing up in the Midwest, Greene said he was the only one to have the same passion for film as his mother, so they shared a special bond.

His mother would often wake him up late at night to watch movies on television.

“I really think that I’m a different person for the experience,” Greene said.

He chose to depict vignettes from the films he recalls watching throughout his life, or that resonate due to a strong emotion or scene.

The scenes are often a bit different from how they appear in the movie, because they represent Greene’s memory of how they appeared.

Josephson sees the films as being an “entry point” for people who might not otherwise know how to approach the medium.

“The choreography is spectacular, and there’s nothing better than storytelling through movement,” Josephson said. “It lets the audience know to look for story. Even those who don’t know dance will be able to understand it.”

teachers abound in company

Most of Josephson’s new company is comprised of teachers, Josephson said; they teach dance at the Orange County High School of the Arts, University High School in Irvine, and elsewhere.

These day jobs are essential, Josephson said, as very few dance companies pay salaries. Instead, the company’s seven dancers receive free classes, and are paid per performance.

“We have to come up with pieces to keep them working,” Josephson said.

Many of the dancers have worked with Greene before, which is of benefit to all, Josephson said.

“Sean has such a specific style, and vocabulary of movement,” he said. “That’s the hardest thing to teach the dancers.”

With this learning curve past them, the dancers can focus on learning new work; each of the dancers is assigned several characters in the debut production, “A Night at the Movies.”

“Part of my responsibility to them is that I get to give them a role, instead of Bluebird No. 22 in the back [of the chorus],” Greene said. “I need them to go farther than they have ever gone before. They’ve got a huge, huge meal on their plates.”

More dreams for group

Josephson dreams of seeing Gallimaufry’s different components — the Lagunatunes community choir, the Promiscuous Assemblage repertory, the new dance company — blossom into one large, unified group.

His adaptation of Henry James’ “Aspern Papers” — set to Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” — is a combination of drama, dance and music that would be an ideal signature piece for the organization, he said. The show debuted a few years ago at the Edinburgh Festival.

But his “absolute, ultimate dream,” he said, is for Gallimaufry Performing Arts to have a live-work performance space and residence in town.

Josephson cites [seven-degrees] as a model — the gallery space also includes live-work spaces and a world-class multimedia system.

“Here is a venue that looks to be innovative,” he said.

And he believes that Greene will be a perfect partner in achieving his goals.

“He has this really strong commitment to Laguna Beach,” Josephson said. “Artists tend to be drawn to this city.”


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