How Young Choreographers Made Art Move

How Young Choreographers Made Art Move

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Dancers perform "Misconception," a piece choreographed by Trystan Loucado for the Young Choreographers Showcase and Prize on Sunday, March 25.

A week before a performance with $3,000 on the line, choreographer Trystan Loucado was dealing with a sudden asthma attack that prevented him from dancing during his rehearsal.

But he had to soldier on, since two of his dancers are new, replacing those who dropped out a few days ago. And another of his dancers couldn’t make it to practice because of her other job. He had a lot to catch up on.

But if you were one of the 350 people in the audience at the Young Choreographers Showcase and Prize, you might never know any of this. You’d only see his final effort, clueless to the drama that transpired.

That’s why we’ve embedded ourselves this past month in the dance-making process of the competition. What happens behind the scenes when trying to make a piece of moving art from scratch?

Three choreographers — Loucado, Zaquia Salinas and Melissa Adao — gave us a peek into their creative processes, from late-night rehearsals to choosing the right spotlight placement just hours before the show and all the drama in between.

All that energy culminated last Sunday night, when 10 choreographers and teams between the ages of 18 and 35 put their weeks of hard work on display for a sold-out crowd at the Neurosciences Institute.

Here’s a guide to what we’ve learned in our Arts: Embedded series about how the competition came together:

• Jean Isaacs’ San Diego Dance Theater put on the showcase. She shared with us why she created the competition: to support the next generation of choreographers. “I want to encourage the young generation to make art,” she said.

• We learned the choreographers we chose to follow each had very different dances: inspired by bathroom etiquette, infused with rigor mortis-like poses and rooted in African and hip-hop styles.

• The choreographers met drama and disasters in the week leading up to the final performance. There were missing dancers, dislocated shoulders and fatigue, to name a few examples.

Still, that didn’t bring them down. “That’s how life is: you can’t expect to plan every single thing out and it all works out the way you envisioned it,” Loucado said. “And certainly choreography isn’t like that.”

• To judge the dances , Isaacs enlisted dance writer Pat Launer, choreographer John Malashock and classical Indian dancer Shoba Sharma. Despite their professional point of view, they had less than half of the overall voting power. The 350 audience members each got two votes and could trump the judges’ decision.

• Finally the big day arrived. Each team had only 30 minutes to practice their dances onstage and get the lighting right, but the three we’d been following didn’t admit to any nervousness. San Diego’s next generation of choreographers brandished their best creative works with teams of passionate dancers. One of the choreographers we’d followed, Adao, won third prize.

Did you see the competition? We’d love to hear what you think. Tell us in a comment below: What was your favorite dance?

Allie Daugherty reports on arts for You can contact her directly at or 619.550.5665.

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