Dance Repertory encourages young artists 

As anyone who has seen “Black Swan” can attest, a dancer’s world can be harsh, brutal and unforgiving. But it can also be a rewarding, life-affirming art that builds a sense of self-worth and expression.

Donnette Heath, founder of Dance Repertory, believes in focusing on the positive aspects of dance, and has made a career out of encouraging young artists in the field.

Now in its 11th year, Dance Repertory returns to Cowell Theater March 5 and 12 to present a showcase for up-and-coming dance students and budding professionals in the field.

The three-part series features the Vision Series Dance Festival, a noncompetitive showcase in which emerging talents from 12 Bay Area high schools are paired with dancers from professional companies and college programs. Prior to the performance, the dancers are partnered in a buddy system in a democratization of dance hierarchy.

“The high school kids are actually teaching the professionals a small portion of their dance,” Heath says. “They’re dancing all on the same level. It’s really about finding something positive within each other.”

The noncompetitive aspect is important to Heath, who has strong memories of her own time as a dancer.

“It was very competitive and emotionally hard,” she says. “We’re hard on ourselves and hard on each other, and I wanted to build something to come together and be on the same level.”

But since competition is an unavoidable aspect of the dance profession, Heath also offers an adjudicated showcase in the Dance Repertory Extravaganza, featuring seven high school groups performing alongside Alonzo King LINES Ballet training program and the Dance Repertory Youth Ensemble on March 5.

Heath believes there is an intrinsic value in allowing the dancers to experience the process of auditions and a competitive performance.

“Knowing they were selected, they have a sense of accomplishment and confidence, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg for what I want for them.”

In the future, Heath would like to open up dialogue between the dancers who were selected and those who were not.

“My goal would be to bring those groups together and talk about it, asking why they feel this way and how to get past it,” she says. “They’ll learn tools so that when they deal with negativity they can know that’s there just for that moment, that it is going to affect them but to choose to use it in a positive way.”

After many years, Heath’s vision has come full circle with this year’s debut of the Dance Repertory Review, a performance of emerging professional artists, including Bay Area dance troupes Rugged Dance Company, Sarah Bush Dance Project, LINES Ballet training program, and KUNST-STOFF Contemporary Dance Company, as well as Central Valley representation by KTdavisdance and Modesto Jr. College Off-Balance.

Unusually for Heath, she has invited critics to this showcase, to give the professionals “the needed exposure, to expand their audience and get a following interested in them and their future.”

IF YOU GO

Dance Repertory

Where: Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street, San Francisco
Tickets: $15 to $20
Contact: (415) 345-7575, www.fortmason.org

Vision Series Dance Festival
(Noncompetitive showcase of local high school dancers and professionals)
When: 4 p.m. March 5 and 12

Dance Repertory Extravaganza
(Adjudicated dance showcase)
When: 8 p.m. March 5

Dance Repertory Review
(Professional, college concert)
When: 8 p.m. March 12

lgallagher@sfexaminer.com

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Lauren Gallagher

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