Yes, Virginia, there is culture in Santa Ana. Seriously, The Wooden Floor (previously known as Saint Joseph Ballet), is an extraordinary after-school organization that was formed in 1983 and continues to provide tutoring, academic services, counseling and – The Leaf’s particular passion – dance education – to mostly Latino, low-income youth. Nearly 400 students, age 8-18 are currently enrolled and, since 2005, 100% of graduates from The Wooden Floor have gone on to college.
Now that’s impressive. Melanie Rios Glaser, executive and artistic director of The Wooden Floor, is also a professional choreographer whose work has been performed in Mexico, Central America, France, Brazil…and the list goes on. She also commissions contemporary choreographers to make new dances on the kids. Indeed, last year, at REDCAT, a group of students performed excerpts from – gasp – Merce Cunningham’s Roaratorio. Incroyable!
Merce Cunningham’s Notes on Roaratorio, with music by John Cage.
But true. And this year promises to be equally spectacular, with the concert, coincidentally, also called TRUE. At the Irvine Barclay Theatre June 2-4, the program features Rios Glaser’s reworking of her 2010 piece, True or False: I Was Born in the Netherlands, a piece by Alpert Award winner Susan Rethorst, and a work for 97 kids by John Heginbotham. Heginbotham has been a dancer with Mark Morris Dance Group since 1998 and recently performed in Morris’ 1988 masterpiece, L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato. (Click here to read my blog posting on Mr. Morris, one of my all-time favorite artists, and click here to listen to my KUSC interview with him.)
No wonder John works well with kids: Here he is in Central Park, a kid at heart himself.
Having seen a rehearsal of Heginbotham’s Pieces of Wood, The Leaf was duly impressed. Listen to her interviews with Rios Glaser and Heginbotham on KUSC-FM radio (via the YouTube post below). Then get yourselves on the freeway and down to Orange County to check out the accomplishments of The Wooden Floor, a spectacular educational model that should be duplicated throughout the States.
Dance: It’s the art form that keeps on giving.