Festival features local dance company Backhausdance

The Laguna Dance Festival will host Backhausdance, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago for three performances Friday through Sunday at Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach.

Orange County-based contemporary dance company, Backhausdance, will perform first Friday night.

Then, two nationally renowned professional companies — San Francisco-based LINES Ballet and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago –– will join forces for a shared program on Saturday and Sunday.

There will be two pre-performance discussions with company artistic directors one hour prior to the Friday and Sunday performances. And, a post-performance fundraising reception will follow the Saturday night performance.

In addition, Glenn Edgerton — artistic director for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago — will teach a master class Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon at Laguna Beach High School's dance studio.

During the program on Saturday and Sunday, Hubbard Street dancers will perform "Three to Max," a contemporary piece choreographed by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin.

"The piece is basically a collage of mainly two works — one called 'Three' and the other one called 'Max,'" Hubbard Street dancer Jonathan Fredrickson explained in a phone interview. "It's the title 'Three to Max.' So, there are different excerpts from those two pieces that he [Naharin] kind of arranged to create its own piece."

In the same program, contemporary ballet company LINES Ballet will perform "Dust and Light," a piece choreographed by artistic director Alonzo King. The dance features duos and trios dancing to Poulenc's "Agnus Dei" from the Mass in G Major and excerpts from Corelli's Baroque-era music.

While pulling from the best companies nationally, Festival Director Jodie Gates also looked within her own backyard for the festival's third company, Backhausdance.

"We're really excited," artistic director and founder Jennie Backhaus said in a phone interview. "We are really very thankful and happy to be on this program. Jodie is great and has given us a great opportunity here to share the weekend with Hubbard Street and LINES. She has been very supportive of local dance by putting us in the same venue as two major companies."

Backhaus founded her dance company in 2003 with solid principles in mind.

"We are an ensemble company, which means we don't run like a ballet company where there are principle dancers," Backhaus explained. "Pretty much everybody has a voice in the company.

"I do a lot of work about relationships and human interaction, work about humanity, work that has a root in classical ballet, but definitely uses momentum and weight and travels and has a sense of humor sometimes."

In 10 years, the company has grown and now houses a core group of eight dancers trained in classical ballet and modern styles.

On Friday night, Backhausdance will perform six repertory pieces — roughly 90 minutes of choreography by Jennie Backhaus.

"In the program is the very first piece I ever choreographed for the company, so you can see the past 10 years in one program," Backhaus said.

The first slated piece, "Sitting on January," has won a Lester Horton award from the Dance Resource Center of Los Angeles.

"It's lighthearted," Backhaus said. "It's an ensemble piece that is performed on an ensemble of wooden chairs. And, it has an element of risk in it and an element of lightness, as well. It's kind of fun."

The company will also perform "Push"–– an award-winning duet from a larger work called Shift, which premiered in 2008.

"'Push' is more of story about how people can help you in our life and push you along," Backhaus said. "It has a lot of partnering in it. And, it's about how you get support in unseen ways. Maybe not overtly helpful, but there are people there supporting you when you least expect it in unexpected ways."

Later on, Backhaus dance will revisit "Connections"–– the first piece Backhaus choreographed for the company. The dance is athletic and performed to a percussion score, she said.

"It's very architectural," Backhaus added. "And, it's basically about bringing six dancers together. It's kind of representative of starting a company, I think."

The sixth and final piece — "The Margin" — takes place on and around a four-by-four platform. Backhaus will premiere a new version of the piece Friday night.

"Please come out and see the show," Backhaus said. "Come out and support local companies. We're so excited that you can come see LINES and Hubbard Street on Saturday and Sunday, which are amazing companies that you would never get to see in such an intimate venue like the Playhouse. But, support local companies too, because we need the support, as well."

If You Go

What: Fall 2012 Laguna Dance Festival

When: Sept. 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 9 at 2 p.m.

Where: Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, Calif.

Cost: $40 to $50, depending on performance date; $25 to $35 with valid student ID. Saturday night reception is $75 per person. Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.lagunadancefestival.org by phone (949) 497-2787 or during Laguna Playhouse box office hours

Information: http://www.lagunadancefestival.org or (949) 715-5578

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