Some of the city’s most talented performing and visual arts students attend the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA), our own little “Fame” magnet school within San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). Each year, students in grades 8-11 audition for one of a few spots offered at SOTA with the hopes of investigating and expanding upon their artistic talents. In addition to the regular curriculum, SOTA students pursue their interests in drama, dance, painting, film, voice, instrumental music, creative writing, and theater design.
When: May 14-15, 8PM; May 16, 2PM
Where: Cowell Theater at Fort Mason Center (Marina Blvd @ Buchanan Street), San Francisco
Tickets: $20 general/$13 students (under 18) and adults 65+; all purchases are subject to processing and preservation fees; purchase online, via 415.345.7575, at the Fort Mason Box Office, or at the door.
Through this afternoon and into the night, 36 students in grades 9 through 12 plan to rehearse until their feet are weary and brains go bust. With just two days left until curtain, these dance students, along with teachers and helpful parents, are putting the final touches on their end-of-the-year concert, aptly entitled “Intention.”
Some of SOTA’s students specifically sought out the dance department. Juliana Javier, 16, says, “I was looking for a professional dance program with great training that I could get during my school day. So far, my experience has been extremely positive! I love my dance teachers and choreographers, and have learned a tremendous amount about the art. Quite a few of the students in the department are seriously considering dancing professional, and personally, I am planning to go to a specialized art college were i can pursue dance.”
But on the flip side is Ixchel Cuellar, 15, who originally attended SOTA for the vocal program. She says, “My first year at SOTA, I was in the vocal department and as I watched the progress of the dance department, as a third-party member, I felt the dance department was an intense training program that could provide many opportunities for me on a professional level.”
In addition to technique classes, students learn about the multifaceted side of choreography. Max Cauthorn, 16, notes that “the main difference between being a choreographer and a dancer is being able to envision formations and movements among many different dancers at once.” And being a student choreographer comes with its own challenges, one of which is leadership and character building. Cauthorn contemplates this, reflecting that “[c]horeographing with peers is a challenge only because one does not have the authority aspect above them to demand focus and attention.” And Javier concurs, “Choreographing with my peers is an extremely wonderful process. Allowing students to share ideas and collaborate. Though at times it can be frustrating, it teaches you to be a leader and be a team player. “
Over the next few days, the dance students will present choreography local choreographers/instructors like Brittany Brown Ceres and Enrico Labayen along with their peers. Javier describes the preparation leading up to the concert, noting that, “Throughout the year, the [dance] department dedicates class time to choreographing dances and rehearsing them. Now that I feel comfortable with the choreographing, I am preparing myself by reviewing the dances and creating a story about each dance so that when I get on stage, I can evoke genuine emotions that read to the audience.”
There’s a lot of work involved in this production, but Cuellar demonstrates a positive and practical outlook, saying, “Mentally, I try not to stress while getting all I need done to prepare.”