In its 15 years, sjDANCEco has established deep roots in the local arts community and been a springboard for new choreography. To celebrate that legacy, the company is opening its season with “Roots and Wings,” a program that features four world premieres and a revival of a 20-year-old work by company founder and co-artistic director Gary Masters.
The world premieres are by sjDANCEco’s co-artistic director Maria Basile; Fred Mathews, choreographic adviser and a professor of dance at San Jose State University; company choreographer and dancer Hsiang Hsiu Lin; and former company dancer Nhan Ho.
The musical settings range from a piano sonata by Aaron Copland to a work for string quintet, piano and percussion by UK composer Peter Gregson, with musical accompaniment provided by members of the San Jose Chamber Orchestra.
Masters is reviving his 1997 “Journey Through the Labyrinth” with a new score by Michael Touchi, creative consultant for the chamber orchestra. The dance was inspired by the life of famed choreographer Jose Limon, whose work formed the basis of sjDANCEco.
“There’s not only new music by Michael Touchi, but there’s additional choreography in the beginning by Sam Cortez, the artistic director for Los Lupeños” de San Jose, Masters says. “It’s more authentic flamenco.”
The work’s original score was written by a graduate student in San Jose State University’s music department for piano alone. Touchi’s score is for nine musicians, including strings and percussion.
“I wanted the more rhythmic, lively quality of Mexican music,” Masters says. “Twenty years down the road, sometimes you need a little extra spice. Hopefully, it will be a more potent work.”
Masters, who considers Limon a mentor, worked for the choreographer’s New York company before moving to San Jose and establishing the Limon West Dance Project, which eventually became sjDANCEco.
“We didn’t really start with the idea of being a performing company,” he recalls. “We started with a festival, which is now (held annually) at Santana Row.”
Over time, more dancers came into the company from San Jose State, where Masters teaches dance, and the company established a residency on campus.
The San Jose performances of “Roots and Wings” are slated for the Hammer Theatre Center, which opened last year in the former San Jose Repertory Company theater. While sjDANCEco staged its fifth anniversary show at the facility in 2007, Masters says he hopes his company will be able to use the theater on a more regular basis now that it’s run by San Jose State in partnership with the city.
“Dance looks beautiful on that stage,” Masters says.
After three shows at the Hammer on Oct. 12 and 14, “Roots and Wings” will move to San Francisco in November for two performances at the ODC Theater.
“It really is a dance theater,” Masters says, adding that after performing at the ODC in 2015, his company pushed to stage its 15th anniversary show there.
The company’s San Jose run will also include a free hour-long performance the morning of Oct. 12 for fourth- and fifth-grade classes from Washington, Horace Mann and Lowell elementary schools and St Patrick’s Parochial School, all in downtown San Jose.
“I’ve wanted to do a youth program for a long time,” Masters says. “I feel arts are important for the well-being of our city, our state, our nation and our world. (Local) youth have very little connection with the arts in schools, with dance being the lowest on the totem pole. We’re passing it on to the next generation.”
Performances of “Roots and Wings” are Oct. 12 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 14 at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the Hammer Theatre Center, 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose. Tickets are $25-$90. Additional performances of sjDANCEco’s 15th-anniversary program are Nov. 3-4 at 8 p.m. at the ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., San Francisco. Tickets are $25-$40. For tickets and more information, call 408-520-9854 or visit sjDANCEco.org.
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