Categories: Arts Dance

Dance maker Amy Seiwert prepares ‘Sketch’ series and big move

San Francisco choreographer Amy Seiwert is happily presenting the eighth installment of her contemporary ballet troupe Imagery’s Sketch series, which introduces new work.

“You always think maybe there’s going to be a train wreck, but the shows are always fabulous,” says Seiwert, who has invited New York City dance makers Jennifer Archibald and Gabrielle Lamb join her in preparing pieces for “Sketch 8 | Origin Stories,” which is onstage at ODC Theater this week.

She started the series, in which choreographers take on the challenge of creating something outside their comfort zone, in 2011 as a way to invigorate her field.

“The more successful you are, the more intimidating it is to fail; I wanted to create a place where failing forward is OK. It’s way more easy to do in theory than in practice,” says Seiwert, who has made dances locally with ODC, Smuin and Oakland ballets and for companies in Austin, Atlanta, Colorado, Louisville, Cincinnati and more.

Seiwert’s contribution to Sketch 8 is an eight-dancer collaboration with composer-violist Christen Lien, whose album “Elpis” explores the Greek myth Pandora’s box, in which all kinds of evils were released into the world, yet Elpis — the Greek personification of hope — remained trapped inside.

“I’m so not a narrative ballet choreographer,” says Seiwert, describing her self-challenge to tell the origin story of Elpis, rather than “react to the music and create colors and textures.”

She says she was drawn to Lien because they have a similar way of beginning with classical, European music, then putting it through a contemporary lens.

Choreographers Amy Seiwert, left, and Jennifer Archibald rehearse “Sketch 8,” onstage at ODC June 28-30. (Courtesy Chris Hardy/Twitter)

Alternately, she’s pleased to share the program with Archibald and Lamb, whom she says work very differently than she does.

Just a week after the show, Seiwert, who has been in the Bay Area for almost two decades (she came in 1999 to dance with Smuin ballet), is moving to Sacramento for a new job as artistic director of Sacramento Ballet.

It’s a place she knows.

“I have friends in the company and have gone back to stage a piece there a couple of years ago,” says Seiwert, who danced there for years under longtime co-artistic directors Ron Cunningham and Carinne Binda, whom she’s replacing.

Describing the not entirely smooth transition, because her predecessors, with the troupe for 30 years, weren’t ready to leave, Seiwert says her thought when considering the job after being approached by a search committee had to do with company’s serious financial straits.

She says, “It was so dramatic at that time. I really wanted to be of service, and thought, ‘How can I help this organization I worked with for so many years? I don’t want to see it go away.’”

Seiwert is looking forward to having resources and a “consistent platform” in the position, and to putting her mark on a new full-length “Nutcracker” for the troupe. (She says she appeared in the holiday classic “at least” 20 times in her performing career.)

Packing up her Bernal Heights home readying to move to Sacramento — she admits, “it’s an intense time now” — Seiwert won’t be entirely be leaving Imagery behind.

The company, thanks to managing director Annika Presley and board chair Niko Mayer, is continuing the Sketch series with a newly established two-year fellowship program; the first artistic fellow is dancer-choreographer Ben Needham-Wood, with whom Seiwert worked at Louisville Ballet and Smuin.

And although she isn’t exactly sure what her new schedule will be, she has plans, including a commission for Smuin, to return.

“This is home, the Bay Area; I’ve been here for 19 years, she says, adding, “I’ll still be around.”

IF YOU GO
Sketch 8 | Origin Stories
Presented by Amy Seiwert’s Imagery
Where: ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. June 28-29, 2 and 8 p.m. June 30
Tickets: $20 to $50
Contact: (415) 863-9834, http://www.odcdance.org

Leslie Katz

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