Jean Isaacs, the artistic director of SDDT, premiered three new works under the title of “Janus and Other Dances of Beginnings, Transitions, and Endings.”
SDDT is based in Liberty Station, where classes are held in the Dance Building.
This was an anniversary, not only of SDDT, but of 20 years of performances created under Isaacs’ leadership. A high tea fundraiser took place in the lobby before the Jan. 22 performance, honoring the three founding members of SDDT; George Willis, Lolita Donoso-Carter, and Johanna Weikel.
There were 60 guests plus staff and volunteers. They supported Kids on Board, which takes school children along the Trolley Dances route in the fall, to view their own special performance of the dances.
The Aging Creatively program, serving approximately 60 seniors from 55-to 92 years old in modern classes, tap, theatrical and jazz dance, was the other beneficiary. It is SDDT’s part of the “Live Well San Diego Initiative.”
Manny Rotenberg donated 100 percent of sales of his photographs reflecting years of dance performances. Since the donations totaled more than $3,000, George and Kate Willis added a $3,000 matching grant. The fundraiser earned $8,000.
After tea, finger sandwiches, cakes, and cookies, there was a short backstage tour and a presentation in which the founders, and Jean Isaacs were honored.
Matt Carney, SDDT’s executive director, welcomed the guests and thanked the board of directors. “They really are the backbone of this organization,” he said.
He gave a special “thank you” to the most recent board president, Margaret Marshall.
He gave an introduction to Modern Dance:
“San Diego Dance Theater represents more than just Modern Dance. It is a space for diverse intergenerational community to create, perform, and view dances that communicate more than what we can do with words alone...with Modern Dance we’re preserving humanity, creating community and, ideally, reflecting our current times,” he said.
Then Sal Giametta, County Supervisor Ron Roberts’ chief of staff, presented a proclamation honoring San Diego Dance Theater for taking part in the “Live Well San Diego Initiative,” and Jean Isaacs’ 20 years of leadership – and named Jan. 22, 2017 San Diego Dance Theater – Live Well San Diego Day throughout San Diego County.
The pioneers that created San Diego Dance Theater in 1968 are:
Johanna Weikel was born in San Diego and studied at San Diego State. She earned a B.A. in physical education, and a master’s degree in dance production. Starting in the mid-’50s, Johanna traveled the country for training in Graham Modern Dance technique, choreography, Spanish Dance, tap, character, and ballet.
She created the Johanna Weikel Dance Company, taught in San Diego high schools, and San Diego City College. She directed the dance program at Southwestern College for many years, and was co-founder, director choreographer and performer for San Diego Dance Theater.
Dr. Lolita Donoso-Carter left the University of the Philippines a B.S. in physical education. At the Women’s College of University of North Carolina, she received an M.S. in physical education (emphasis in dance). Her Ph.D. came from University of Iowa, where she met and married Lindsey Carter.
She taught at Kearny Mesa High School and established a dance program at Grossmont College. She retired from Grossmont after 22 years. She also co-directed choreographed, and danced as a founding member of SDDT. She died in 2011, and her husband represented her at the event.
George Willis, current president of The San Diego board of directors, was also a founder of SDDT.
Willis started in dance in his high school physical education classes in southwest L.A., because he wanted to stay in top physical shape. His teacher, Nita Cable, sent him to Hollywood to take classes with Charles Weidman, a pioneer in American Modern Dance.
Willis was asked to join Wiedman in performances at several universities in Southern California. In college he continued to study and take master classes from the elite of the art. He earned his M.S. at Cal State Los Angles and started his teaching career at San Diego State in 1967 and soon became a founder of SDDT.
For more information, visit www.SanDiegoDanceTheater.org.