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Laguna Dance Festival moves into town

Featured companies at the April 5 to 15 festival will include River North Dance Chicago, BalletX and others.

March 29, 2012|By Candice Baker
(Photo by Bill Hebert.…)

Like any dance professional, Jodie Gates is a master of the art of spotting.

When a dancer uses the technique, they visually fix upon a single point in the distance and keep their eyes set on it, as they undergo what seems to be a dizzying number of turns and spins. The result, after careful practice, is perfect control and execution — and the ability to end up exactly where one plans to go.

Gates, the founder and artistic director of the Laguna Dance Festival, used the technique on stage in her past as a lauded ballerina and continues to do so today; both in her dance teaching career at UCI and in her business role leading the festival.

Over its relatively short history, the festival has ensconced itself as a fixture in the community, offering the best of contemporary dance from throughout the United States as well as some of Gates' own up-and-comers from UCI.

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"For me, the mission is to have local artists as well as artists from across the nation. Basically, we're representing the whole country as well as showing off some local talent," Gates said.

The festival starts April 5 during First Thursdays Art Walk, with previews at the Laguna Art Museum at 6:45 p.m. and [seven-degrees] at 7:45 p.m.

The main portion of the festival begins with River North Dance Chicago's kickoff at the Laguna Playhouse at 7:30 p.m. April 12, and continues with the world premiere of "Delicate Balance" by BalletX at 7:30 p.m. April 13. After its debut, "Delicate Balance" will be performed in Philadelphia in April and New York City in June.

"I love this new work, and am incredibly excited to be sharing its premiere with Laguna," Gates said.

It is followed by Stars of Dance, featuring principals from the New York City Ballet, Colorado Ballet and San Francisco-based Smuin Ballet, at 7:30 p.m. April 14 and 2 p.m. April 15. An artists' reception follows the April 14 performance. Meet the Artists talks begin one hour previous to the April 12, 13 and 15 performances.

"We're incredibly accessible; this gives the audience an opportunity to see these top artists in an intimate setting for an affordable price," Gates said. "You can see artists that you would see in New York, but you can see them here in a 420-seat theater, you can talk to them after the performance, and you get a pre-performance talk. … It's all about audience awareness."

Gates said 2012 marks the first time that River North Dance Chicago, a jazz-based contemporary dance company, will perform at the festival.

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