Ask the organizers of JumpBrush: Pacific Coast Dance Convergence to name their favorite thing about the festival, and they’ll invariably mention the Ballet Café.
“We really created an environment where dancers got to open up a dialogue,” said Civic Ballet of San Luis Obispo Artistic Director Drew Silvaggio, describing an area in front of the Performing Arts Center’s Spanos Theatre where dancers bonded over juice boxes and granola bars.
Added local choreographer Lisa Deyo, “Amazing connections happened there.”
Ballet Café is back this year at JumpBrush, running today through Saturday at the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center in San Luis Obispo.
The biennial dance festival, which debuted in 2010, features three full days of classes, workshops and performances by the likes of San Francisco’s Joe Goode Performance Group. Leslie Baumberger, co-owner of CORE Dance Group in San Luis Obispo, said JumpBrush seeks to forge stronger bonds between Central Coast dancers.
“The dance scene in San Luis Obispo is huge,” said Baumberger, who came aboard as a festival organizer earlier this year. “We want to become a true dance community instead of a bunch of dance studios.”
Starting from scratch
Deyo, Silvaggio and Ballet Theatre of San Luis Obispo founder Theresa Slobodnik began planning JumpBrush in 2008, joined by Variable Velocity Performance Group co-founder Diana Stanton a year later.
“When you set out to do these things for the first time, there’s no real book,” Silvaggio explained. “Nobody says, ‘Oh, you’re setting out to do a dance festival. Here’s ‘Dance Festivals for Dummies.’ ”
“We started literally from scratch,” he added.
Thankfully, the organizers said, the first JumpBrush went off without a hitch.
“We were really pleased that so many people walked out of (the festival) feeling so incredibly energized and enthusiastic,” said Ron Regier, managing director of the PAC.
This year’s JumpBrush will build on that foundation by bringing ballet, Bollywood, jazz, musical theater and other dance classes to intermediate-to- advanced dancers age 12 and up. (A new program, HopBrush, caters to younger dancers.)
Local dance instructors include Norm and Anne Tiber, who teach international folk dancing at Cal Poly, and Jenny Appell and Bruce Oglivie of the African dance troupe Higher Movement.
They’ll be joined by visiting choreographers Joe Chad Michael Hall and Damon Rago, who both teach dance at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and Angela Banchero-Kelleher, an associate professor of modern dance at Utah Valley University.
Joe Goode, artistic director of the Joe Goode Performance Group, is taking part in the festival’s new reverse residency program, creating a new work using local dancers. In the meantime, Silvaggio and Stanton are working with members of the Joe Goode Performance Group.
Silvaggio plans to restage his piece “Mob,” which premiered at JumpBrush in 2010.
“Every single concert I’ve ever gone to has inspired this piece,” said Stanton, describing the work as “atmospheric.” “It’s about friction. It’s about people moving together and feeding off each other’s energy.”
Stanton will present a revised version of “We Come, We Go,” featured this May in Variable Velocity’s annual showcase, “Inside Out.” The piece traces a sort of spiritual evolution from “earthy organic material to animalistic movement to urban professional grid-like patterns of dance,” she explained.
Both pieces will be featured as part of Saturday’s closing night showcase, “JumpBrush in Concert.”
Hotbed for discovery
Central Coast audiences have two chances to catch JumpBrush in action.
The Joe Goode Performance Group will explore the iconic American image of the cowboy in “The Rambler,” tonight at the Cohan Center.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the American West and the spirit of the frontier person who first ventured out of safety,” Goode explained. “That spirit really persists here (in California). It’s still a hotbed for that kind of discovery and exploration.”
Saturday’s “JumpBrush in Concert” features performances by local and visiting dancers, plus a grand finale accompanied by Cal Poly organist Paul Woodring.
According to Silvaggio, JumpBrush has the potential to put the Central Coast dance scene on the map.
“If San Luis Obispo can be known for something as altruistic and awesome and artistic as having a huge dance festival that would be a great notch in this great city’s belt,” he said.