Trolley Dances Come to La Logan
By Brent E. Beltrán
For the past two weekends three different public sites within Barrio Logan were pleasantly invaded by the light-footed moves of hand-selected dancers. The 15th annual Trolley Dances shared the talents of local dance aficionados with the Logan community and those that came from outside the neighborhood.
Organized by the San Diego Dance Theater, under the direction of Artistic Executive Director Jean Isaacs, and in partnership with the Metropolitan Transit System, the concept of Trolley Dances is to “bring dance to the people using public transportation and introduce people to new neighborhoods and places.”
Though dance has been an integral part of the culture of Barrio Logan, especially danza Azteca and ballet folklorico, it was interesting to see my community’s reaction to this modern style of dancing. It was equally interesting to see the mostly older, white crowd experience the barrio firsthand. Many of whom I assume have probably never stepped foot within Barrio Logan.
“We all felt that this was an important community. It is getting a lot of press lately. This plaza represents a resurgence of energy for Barrio Logan. It seemed like a perfect place,” said Jean Isaacs.
She also said that part of the reason for coming to Barrio Logan “was to introduce [our main patrons] to parts of San Diego that are very fascinating that they may not otherwise visit.”
She also noted that, “theaters have become so costly in San Diego that nobody can really afford them except the really big groups. This is an opportunity to bring art directly to the community.”
Trolley Dances took place at scheduled intervals at the new Mercado del Barrio placita, in Chicano Park and at the recently opened Monarch School a few blocks down the street. Since my apartment balcony overlooks the placita my family and I got to see and hear almost every dance performed during the two weekends and the previous week’s practice runs.
Listening to the music of Nuevo and Kronos Quartet repeatedly starting at 9am on a Saturday was not our favorite part of the program but we sacrificed for the greater good of the arts.
Since the placita and the park are so near to my apartment I took the opportunity to check out those dances and get a feel for what they were doing.
Approximately eight dancers, dressed mostly in white, seemed to effortlessly glide across the surface of the Mercado’s placita. The fleet footed dancers moved with the light breeze as though they were deftly sliding along a cushion of air. Movement upon movement. Like athletes on a field without referees and whistles to stop their dance mission.
Though I don’t quite understand this particular type of dance, nor am I a fan of dance in general, I can appreciate the athleticism and the dedication required to commit oneself to this art form. And from the applause of the various audiences that came throughout the days those in attendance appreciated it as well.
After the placita dancers finished Trolley Dances guides would walk attendees a block away to Chicano Park where three dancers incorporated the theme of the barrio and the park into their routine. It was great seeing the dancers pay homage to the site they were using instead of just dancing there in a historical vacuum. It allowed the audience to get a feel of Chicano Park, the history of this community and perhaps even changed perceptions of what Barrio Logan is.
“I’m welcoming the entire community of San Diego,” said dancer Julio Velazquez. “I think Chicano Park is a heart. It has a history. I’m including text [in my piece]. A little, brief history. I’m improvising from the heart. Letting people know it’s not just for Chicanos.”
He also thinks it’s “really great to expose [Jean Isaac’s audience]. I wouldn’t think the audience would come here on their own. It kind of bridges the gap. Trolley Dances is a wonderful thing. It’s dances created on specific sites. You don’t need a stage to do it. The stage is the site. The stage for us today is Chicano Park.”
Though dancing isn’t really my thing I appreciate that my community was chosen to play a central role in this year’s edition of Trolley Dances. Barrio Logan is a vibrant, living, breathing community that has been home to various forms of art for decades. Groups like San Diego Dance Theater understand that and have chosen to contribute in their own way. And that is something I can dance to.