Our Laguna: Jodie Gates is dancing up in the world

June 27, 2013|By Barbara Diamond
  • Guest of honor Desmond Richardson, renowned dancer and choreographer, is surrounded by committee members for "Visual Immersion," the Laguna Dance Festival's fundraising gala held at [seven-degrees] on June 20. From left: Laguna Dance Festival board president Joy Dittberner, co-chair Edie Tonkon, committee member Debbie Naudé, and event co-chair Nancy Meyer.
Guest of honor Desmond Richardson, renowned dancer and… (Leslie Cunningham )

This column has been corrected, as noted below.

Laguna Dance Festival founder Jodie Gates has taken on a new challenge.

Festival President Joy Dittberner announced at the June 20 festival fundraiser that Gates has been named vice dean and director of the new USC Kaufman School of Dance, funded by Glorya Kaufman.

Gates will be leaving her current position as professor of dance at UC Irvine in August.

"It is a gift to USC and to Jodie that this wonderful school is being established, utilizing Jodie's immense talent and made possible by the generous gift of Glorya Kaufman," said Pat Kollenda, Laguna Beach arts commissioner and USC alumna.

"I really believe this will benefit the Laguna Beach Dance Festival."

The festival is Gates' baby. When she decided 10 years ago to hang up her toe shoes, she made Laguna her home.

"We have all benefited," said Dittbener in her introduction of Gates at the "Visual Immersion" fundraiser, held at [Seven-Degrees]. We benefit from her vision, her unbounded energy, sharp intellect and deep knowledge of the dance world.


"She was determined to add dance to the cultural palette that is Laguna Beach."

Thus was born CaDance, which has morphed into the Laguna Dance Festival.

"Our mission is to support and promote the development of dance creation, presentation and education and to increase public appreciation of the art form in Orange County and beyond," Dittberner said.

The first CaDance performance was held in 2006 at Main Beach.

During her 30-year career on stage, Gates dance with the Joffrey, Frankfurt and Pennsylvania ballet companies. Behind the scenes, she has taught, staged and produced William Forsythe's ballets at Paris Opera Ballet, Scottish Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Zurich Opera Ballet, Teatro La Scala, Houston Ballet, and Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.

She has also choreographed for American Ballet Theatre II and Complexions Contemporary Ballet, co-founded in New York by dance principal Desmond Richardson.

The partnership with Complexions brought Richardson to Laguna to perform in the festival.

"When I started the festival, I called in Desmond," Gates said. "He brought his Rolodex."

The Rolodex contained the names of Patrick Swayze, and Debbie Allen, star of "Fame," one of, if not the best, dance series ever on television.

"I have been affiliated with the festival since its inception," Richardson said at the fundraiser.

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