Dancing Without Borders

The McCallum Theatre hosts a salute to this graceful art form, featuring international troupes and local stars in the making

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South Korea’s SEOP Dance Company performs Nov. 15.
Photo Courtesy of McCallum Theatre


Dance embodies a choreographer’s vision through movement, expressing emotion and sparking the imagination as it tells a story. This month, the McCallum Theatre brings this art form to the forefront with exceptional performances during the Palm Desert International Dance Festival.

Floating on the heels of the successful inaugural event last fall, this second festival has expanded its offerings to further promote dance’s significance. “We are even more excited this year and expect the festival to be a great attraction for cultural tourism in the Coachella Valley,” says Mitch Gershenfeld, the McCallum Theatre’s president and CEO. “And this year’s artists truly represent some of the best the dance world is producing.”

Photo by Hugo Glendinning

BalletBoyz, Nov. 6.

Featured performers include Great Britain’s BalletBoyz on Nov. 6, whose dance style incorporates strength, ferocity, and elegance; and the ever-popular Swiss mask theater troupe Mummenschanz, which charms with a visually stunning performance sans music, on Nov. 13. SEOP Dance Company from South Korea, which uses traditional and contemporary dance techniques to create a stunning display of sound, color, and movement, appears Nov. 15.

The 17th Annual Choreography Competition, a program of the McCallum Theatre Institute’s education and outreach division, takes the stage Nov. 8-9, bringing emerging choreographers and original dance to McCallum audiences and offering an opportunity for local studios and dance companies to vie for cash and prizes.

Photo by Andres Jiras

The Royal Ballet of Cambodia.

“Over the years, the Choreography Competition has attracted extraordinary talent and wonderful support from valley audiences and funders,” says Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, the McCallum’s director of education. “And the expanded dance festival provides more opportunities.” 

Under the institute’s care, the Choreography Festival has helped generate almost half a million dollars for choreographers. The program also supports the dance community, bringing in professional as well as master classes to the valley. The McCallum Theatre Institute’s popular Field Trip Series offers high-quality music, dance, and theater performances to area youth and will host events throughout the week, including the Royal Ballet of Cambodia. Performances are offered at no cost to schools and students.

Photo by Jack Hartin

East Valley Dance Project 2013.

The festival also focuses on outreach programs. The Studio Project gives young dancers studying at local studios a chance to be part of the festival, culminating in a performance at the McCallum on Nov. 9. In addition, the East Valley Dance Project partners the McCallum with schools in Thermal to teach youngsters about dance and choreography, capping the experience with a performance at the theater, also on Nov. 9.

“Many of these children have never been exposed to movement or the artistic process that is involved in performing,” Thuresson-Frary says. “We want to open up the boundaries for what dance can inspire.”

Suzanne Farrell, founder of Suzanne Farrell Ballet at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, will be honored with the festival’s annual Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Palm Desert International Dance Festival and Choreography Festival, Nov. 6-15, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com

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