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Trolley Dances Returns This Fall

Legendary local choreographer Jean Isaacs brings back San Diego’s most unique site-specific dance experience



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Ask Jean Isaacs, artistic director of Liberty Station’s San Diego Dance Theater, if she has the same passion for her craft that she had when she came to town 46 years ago, and she responds like one of her young students might: “Totally!”

The respected dancer, choreographer, and teacher is just as expressive as the dances she creates. Of those who dream to dance professionally one day, she says: “You work to get where you are. You need to dance every day during the formative period. You have to love that kind of life.”

Jean Isaacs in 1980

Check, check, and check for Isaacs herself. When she arrived in San Diego as an experienced artist, she discovered virtually no dance scene at all. “It was like a blank slate here,” she recalls. “I think I helped create a palette for it.”

At the helm of SDDT since 1997, Isaacs has built an organization that performs with a talented company of dancers and trains young people in the art and technique of dance.

Over two upcoming weekends, September 24–25 and October 1–2, SDDT will present one of its signature events, the 18th annual Trolley Dances. The site-specific performances at stations along and near the MTS Blue Line feature choreography by Isaacs as well as guest choreographers Monica Bill Barnes, Jess Humphrey, Zaquia Mahler Salinas, and Bill Shannon.

Starting at the new Continuing Education César E. Chávez Campus in Barrio Logan, “We’re going on a completely different journey this time,” Isaacs promises of the performances. “These neighborhoods are working class and historical. Audiences feel revitalized when they come.”

The outdoor Trolley Dances event has been around as long as it has for a reason. As Isaacs says, with its near-perfect fall weather and scenic sites along the trolley route, “San Diego is the perfect city for it.”

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