DiStill Life

Think back, however far that may be, to your first exposure to performing art. I vividly remember those field trips of my youth. The largeness of the auditorium, the thrill of the room going black, the curtain opening, and then the immersion into something so totally new, be it dance, a play, or puppetry.

Unfortunately in our region, performing arts field trips are a rarity, especially if you leave it to the school system’s waning budget and region’s lack of venues. But hold that thought — and enter stage left Arts For the Schools. While you’ve likely heard of the local nonprofit organization, you’re about to hear much, much more as the group landed a three-year grant to bring dance, on a larger scale, to our region. And the first grant-funded performance on the 2010/11 playbill is upon us: Project Bandaloop, a San Francisco–based, vertical, contemporary dance company that plans to flip the traditional dance floor on its side when its dancers perform off the nine-story Resort at Squaw Creek building on Sunday Aug. 29.

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The ODC Theater’s InnerState grant, funded by the James Irvine Foundation and awarded to Arts For the Schools in late 2009, gives approximately $30,000 per year over the next three years for world-class dance performances in the Truckee/North Tahoe area, and enables local children to interact with the performers through master dance classes.

‘It was an honor to be selected,’ says Raine Howe, Arts For the Schools’ executive director who was the driving force (or we could say the only one behind the wheel) in obtaining the grant. ‘Only three presenters in the state of California were chosen. What we’re really proud of is that we brought dollars from outside this community to benefit our region.’

Key factors in Arts For the Schools selection, says Howe, were the organization’s 26-year history of bringing both professional art instruction with its Artist-in-Residence program and performing arts productions with its OnSTAGE School Performance Series to local schools and the public, despite not having entirely adequate venues to support such endeavors.

Likewise, says Howe, Arts For the Schools stood out as a community-supported organization. ‘We have staple supporters in this community; without them, we could not do what we do,’ she says of Bandaloop performance host Resort at Squaw Creek, Ferrari Crown Motel in Kings Beach, and Ray Villaman’s two restaurants, Fireside Pizza at Squaw Valley and Rubicon Pizza at Northstar, who lodge and feed Arts For the Schools’ visiting performers. ‘That kind of local support helped us get the grant.

They see that we are supported by the community and that the community really wants this, and is not just sticking out its hand.’

Local dance students from companies like Tahoe Youth Ballet and InnerRhythms Dance Theatre will have the chance to interact with each visiting group, which includes Yaelisa Caminos Flamencos and KUNST-STOFF Contemporary Dance Company on Oct. 1. In preparation for this month’s Resort at Squaw Creek performance, Project Bandaloop visited with 20 young dancers from InnerRhythms the first week in August to choreograph an on-ground opening routine for its aerials.

Thanks to the InnerState grant, Arts For the Schools can use more money from each ticket price to support its endeavors.

‘When you purchase a ticket to an Arts For the Schools performing arts program, you’re helping to fund the Artist-in-Residence program, and underwrite all the other programs we have,’ says Howe. ‘We are counting on the community to help us in this way.’

It is surely a show I won’t miss, and I hope you join me. Where else in Tahoe can you see aerials that aren’t on snow, a mountain bike trail, or a speedboat wake? As I remember so well from my youth, performing arts have the ability to amaze and empower us, to make us realize the potential of our creative spirits and bodies.

‘There’s a whole part of a child’s development that benefits from seeing a performing arts program,’ Howe says. ‘If we don’t bring it to them now, there’s a high likelihood that they won’t have that experience later in life.’ So bring a blanket to sprawl on the grass, breathe in that beautiful Squaw Valley air, and enjoy performing arts, mountain style!

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