David Popalisky is a professor of dance history, modern dance, and choreography. Popalisky has choreographed, performed, and taught throughout the United States, Central America, and Asia. He is currently choreographing and preparing students for the annual Images performance in February. Many of Popalisky’s choreographic works deal with social justice issues like his “Barred from Life” collaboration with the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) to bring attention to wrongful imprisonment. This summer, he led 14 students on a 225-mile journey from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park.
1. In spring you taught the course Walk Across California. Were you happy with how this project turned out and do you have plans to take a similar journey next year?
I was very excited about how my Walk Across California course turned out. Last June the students came together as a group to have fun and work to respect every walk member, no matter what major or traditional student group they came from. The challenge of the walk took its daily toll and everyone was there for each other with a pick-up snack, some extra foot tape, encouragement to hang in there, or a song to pass the time. We met incredible Californians like Fr. Dean in Stockton, Calif. who introduced us to the brave and struggling members in his community. We also met farm workers who shared their stories of working the fields and Miwok Indian elders who spoke of connecting their pasts with the present. Arriving in Yosemite and witnessing the students’ artistic reflections on the trip was so powerful. Using poems, songs, drawings, and photos each described the journey and its personal meaning with Half Dome draped with pine trees as our backdrop. Incredible! The walk staff included Rebekah Bloyd, Edward Rooks, and Diana Bustos who were the charts in every way. I am hopeful to repeat this class and trip in June of 2014.
2. You just came back from the DUMBO (Down Under Manhatten Bridge Overpass) Dance Festival in New York. How is the art and culture scene different there then it is in California?
In NYC there is art everyday almost everywhere. DUMBO Dance Festival was one part of a huge, community-wide, indoor, and outdoor performance scene located in Brooklyn. In California there is an equally diverse art scene, it is just more spread out in place and time. I was thrilled that so many SCU alums made the trek to Brooklyn to see my dance—a considerable effort that New Yorkers take in stride as they embrace the vitality of that metropolis. In both shows that included my dance the theatre had overflowing audiences—can’t beat that.
3. What SCU projects are you working on now? (Any that faculty and staff can attend and help with?)
My current project is a new dance and theatre work on the theme of Futurism, an early 20th century artistic movement, in collaboration with Jeff Bracco, my theatre colleague. We are working with SCU student dancers and actors to get this show ready for Images ’13 in early February. Hope to see everyone there.
4. How has technology changed the dance industry? (Ex: YouTube, Life Forms, Flip Cameras, etc.)
Any dance choreographer who wants to have a successful, live presence in a theatre needs a sophisticated web presence as well. Choreographers need to know how to film, edit, and package their very best work in short excerpts to attract potential audiences. A plus side of technology is that a much wider audience is witnessing dance through the web. On the negative side, audience’s patience and focus on the real time takes for a sophisticated live dance performance to unfold is being challenged. But the technical possibilities for creating dance specifically for projection (ex: from iPad to film) are unlimited and really fun. All this is part of the inevitable evolution of a vibrant art form that celebrates and reveals the truly miraculous human body.
5. What is your favorite Bay Area venue for performances?
There are many but I particularly like to see touring dance companies at the Yerba Buena Novellus Theatre in SF. This medium size theatre allows choreographers great flexibility on stage and all seats in the house are relatively close, creating an intimate experience with the performers. I regularly take students in my dance classes to this theatre and at times performers that I know, like Bill T. Jones, come out after and speak with our group.