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Tiny Dancers

North Bay dance companies get active this spring

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CELLO DOLLY UPside dancers wonder what it's like to be an intrument in 'Strum,' at Healdsburg's SHED.
  • CELLO DOLLY UPside dancers wonder what it's like to be an intrument in 'Strum,' at Healdsburg's SHED.

A tiny girl from a famous fairy tale, supernatural messengers eager to bring lovers together and a quartet of string instruments longing to be strummed are the cast of characters on view in the next two weeks, when several North Bay dance companies present vibrant pieces.

In Ballet Califia's Thumbelina, the diminutive lass with a huge heart springs to life with original choreography by founders Shelley Scott and David McNaughton. Dancing to music by Alexander Glazunov, the dancers range in age from 10 to 22, all performing up-close-and-personal at Ballet Califia's Cotati dance studio.

"For those who are less familiar with ballet," says Scott, "this is a great one, because unlike some ballets, the story of Thumbelina is pretty easy to follow."

A bit less linear but no less imaginative is Strum, a world premiere dance-music collaboration from Sonoma County's UPside Dance Company and composer Mark Growden. Presented for the first time this weekend at Healdsburg's stylish new SHED marketplace and performance space, Strum brings out the inner "lives" of inanimate objects.

"We created our choreography based on researching different instruments like the violin, flute and cello," says Tanya Tolmasoff, cofounder, with Kate Ahumada of UPside. "We asked, how would we move if we were these instruments, finding moments that we could be a bow, pluck a string, tune the instrument or hold a note."

The choreography, set to original compositions by Growden—who will be performing with his quartet—even features an homage to the metronome. The SHED show also includes pieces performed to Growden's "Pillar" and "Caravan." The program, says Tolmasoff, is a full-sensory experience.

"You will get your toe tapping and your heart strings plucked," she says.

Next weekend, at the Marin Civic Center's Showcase Theater, two other Bay Area companies—Nava Dance Theater and Odissi Vilas: Sacred Dance of India—join forces for an evening of storytelling through the medium of dance.

Messengers of Love features solo and group performances—many of them bringing to life Indian myths of love and divine intervention—presented with vivid costumes and athletic choreography. Expect to be inspired and entranced.

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