International Dance Festival@Silicon Valley brings choreographers, classes to Mountain View


In the final months of 2016, Alyssa Mitchel choreographed her broken friendship for the stage. The piece chronicles the fragmentation of Mitchel's friendship with a fellow dancer, and tells the story of how things never go back to the way they once were. She's set to perform "Close, Far and Somewhere in Between" at the International Dance Festival@Silicon Valley on Sunday, May 19, in Mountain View, along with five other Bay Area artists who won awards in the festival’s choreography competition and whose work will be featured.

The festival, hosted by the Lively Foundation, a Mountain View-based arts education organization and dance company, will also offer a full day of dance classes on Saturday, May 18, ranging from tap to line dancing.

Leslie Friedman, founder and artistic director of the foundation, started the International Dance Festival in 2012 to create opportunities for dancers to show their work and to practice their craft. It’s grown into a space where novice dancers can experiment with movement.

Friedman traveled to countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa to dance, perform and teach, and learned that movement was connective, able to sew understanding among cultures.

"When you see a performance, you are absorbing something about the values and ideals of these cultures," she said.

The variety of dance forms and cultural inspirations, from traditional to contemporary, speaks not only to the universality of movement, but the shared story of relationships -- with others and the one we have with ourselves.

"Close, Far and Somewhere in Between" has brought audience members to tears, Mitchel reflected. One viewer was so moved by the performance that she reached out to a distant friend to mend ties. Mitchel does not expect this response from every viewer, but said she doesn't just want to make beautiful dances, she wants to tell stories.

Peri Trono, a choreographer and dancer who works with five companies based in the Bay Area, is a recipient of an International Dance Festival choreography award. Her piece, titled "fetch," is a two-person dance that depicts the tension and fluidity of relationships. Trono said she does not typically perform her own work, but wanted to dance “fetch” because she found that the process of feeling her choreography was different from viewing it. Dancing through an emotional experience, especially a piece that considers the tumultuousness of a relationship, is another way to have a conversation, speaking with bodies instead of words.

"You almost feel fulfilled because you've experienced in a short amount of time all these emotions and it's not explained," Trono said.

Participants in the festival will be able to see, and take part in, these conversations first hand.

"When I am dancing I am both more aware of every motion, every gesture than I could describe and less self conscious," Friedman said. "I become the dance; I become part of the music; I become something different."

The Full Day of Dance is Saturday, May 18, from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and the International Dance Festival@Silicon Valley concert is Sunday, May 19, at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20. Mountain View Masonic Center, 890 Church St., Mountain View. More information can be found at Lively Foundation.

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