Trolley Dances is unique among San Diego dance events. Guided tours take ticket-holders to a series of performances that are within walking distance of trolley stations. It’s an artistic urban adventure for youngsters and adults.

Pop out of one of those stations and you might just see Minaqua McPherson. The 27-year-old dancer, teacher and budding choreographer is a member of Jean Isaacs San Diego Dance Theater, which appears this weekend and next in the adventurous dance event done with the Metropolitan Transit System.

It’s the 12th year for Trolley Dances; the fourth for McPherson. The Mission Beach resident will perform in Love, oh Love, a new work by New York-based choreographer Monica Bill Barnes (a former San Diegan).

I figured there’d be no better place for us to talk than at Barnes’ dance site. So McPherson and I took a trolley to the San Diego Convention Center (one of four stops on this year’s route). We walked to six towering concrete arches on the south side of the Convention Center, where Love, oh Love will take place.

The sun was already warm that morning and we found refuge in the shade beside one of the arches. There, McPherson proved she’s as comfortable answering questions as she is dancing.

What’s the most unusual location you’ve encountered in Trolley Dances?

A pool at a Mission Valley apartment complex. That was in 2008. It was absolutely the most pleasant dance site I’ve ever worked at. We took our breaks in the Jacuzzi. There were 10 of us — all women. The dance had us wearing black garments, sunglasses and high heels. It was a Jackie O. kind of thing.

What adjustments do you make to the unconventional settings?

You definitely have to come prepared. Just like the attendees, we bring a sunhat, sunblock, snacks and plenty of water. We also bring knee pads, tennis shoes with thick sole inserts and gloves. You don’t want to burn your hands if you have to touch concrete and metal that are hot from the sun.

What’s it like working with Monica Bill Barnes? Like you, she got her undergraduate degree at University of California, San Diego.

The way Monica sees it, anything can be done. We can figure it out. We can make it work. Maybe we’ll do it while singing a song or removing a layer of clothes or improvising. She can make the most tiring tasks simple just by smiling at us. She’s got such a positive outlook.

How would you describe her new dance?

There will be 11 dancers — men and women – dressed in light-colored street clothes. The music includes Lionel Richie’s You Are. The dance isn’t really romantic. It’s more about what’s acceptable on the first date — how far should you go? I love it. It’s fun.

What advice would you give someone who is going to Trolley Dances for the first time?

I’d say: “Let your mind explore all the options of what a dance can be about.” The first instinct is to try and figure out exactly what it is. But it’s good to just enjoy it. If you could get inside a choreographer’s mind, what a show it would be! So just go wherever the dance takes you.

Please contact Valerie Scher at and follow her on Twitter @vscher.

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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