Get to Know July Featured Artist Steven Valencia

Profile CropEnchanting, colorful costumes. Skillful footwork. A high pitch grito (shout). These are the familiar elements that define Mexico’s ballet folklórico or “folkloric dance.” Our July Featured Artist Steven Valencia might add “his inspiration”, too.

This month, we connected with Calidanza’s Artistic Director to learn more about his life-long passion. As the leader of the Calidanza folk dance company, Valencia seeks to advance, celebrate, and preserve the culture of Latino, Chicano, and Native populations for generations. And he’s been pretty good at it. He’s worked and toured with some of the best instructors from across the border, choreographed traditional and modern professional productions in and around the Sacramento region, and was even awarded the 2011 Maestro Award from The Latino Arts Network of California for his efforts. What may be the most peculiar thing about Valencia’s success is that he juggles his time at Calidanza with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Read on and discover what quite literally moves our featured artist here.


A Day in the Life with The Sugar Plum Fairy

behind the sceneSacramento Ballet’s principal dancer Alexandra Cunningham shares how she and The Sacramento Ballet Company dancers prepare for the region’s holiday tradition.

As the orchestra tunes their instruments there is a certain magic in the air. It’s almost opening night of Ron Cunningham’s The Nutcracker and I can hardly contain my excitement! All the memories of performing in this classic holiday production for the past 22nd years come flooding back to me.

From my humble beginnings as a Baby Bunny in the “Battle Scene”, I always knew that one day I wanted to be a professional dancer for The Sacramento Ballet. I would watch the ballerinas in awe as they accomplished their choreography with the confidence and grace that comes with years of experience. Still a youngster, and just starting my ballet training, I couldn’t imagine exactly how they did it — but I knew that I wanted to be just like the dancers on stage.

Now, 22 years later, there I am backstage in my Sugar Plum tutu preparing my pointe shoes and trying to calm the butterflies in my stomach. Yes, even after all these years, and after all the hours of rehearsal, I still get nervous before every show. I know all the choreography inside and out, but the thing about a live performance is that you never know what might happen on stage — and that thrill is one of the many reasons why I love to perform.

This year alone, the Company dancers and I have spent over 200 hours in rehearsal for The Nutcracker. This year’s Nutcracker is certainly not our first rodeo –if you add up all the years each Sacramento Ballet dancer has performed a version of the Nutcracker, we dancers bring audiences a total of 361 years of experience! For many, like myself, The Nutcracker was our first experience on stage and the reason why we eventually pursued a professional ballet career.

theater day
The life of a dancer is one that requires immense dedication, discipline, and vision. We start our workday with a one and a half hour ballet class to improve our ballet technique and build stamina, followed by up to five hours of rehearsal, six days a week. We rehearse our choreography for our Artistic Director or ballet master (equivalent to a coach) who constantly corrects us in an effort to helps us achieve our best possible performance. Over time, we develop tough skin like the calluses around our toes. Dancers are taught to strive for perfection, although we all know that it is unattainable. Our work never ends as there is always a next level to reach.

All the hard work and hours of training however become instantly worth it once we step onto the stage. The Nutcracker is particularly treasured by the dancers as, in our Sacramento version, we work with over 500 children throughout the performances. To see their smiles and genuine joy as they take the stage alongside us reminds us of the reason we pursued our chosen profession in the first place.

The Nutcracker is so much more than just a ballet performance — it’s a holiday tradition that celebrates our community in the most meaningful way. It’s truly a miracle to watch people from all walks of life spend their time and invest their hearts into making The Nutcracker a success. For me, it wouldn’t be the holiday season if I wasn’t backstage preparing to dance The Nutcracker. Now, as I prepare for opening night, I am filled with a special kind of happiness that comes from knowing I am part of a legacy that inspires the spirit of the holiday season for generations.

See The Sacramento Ballet’s hard work throughout the month of December. Ron Cunningham’s The Nutcracker will be performed December 12-22 at the Sacramento Community Center Theater. To learn more, visit its event listing here.

This blog post was written by The Sacramento Ballet’s principal dancer, Alexandra Cunningham.

Have the Time of Your Life

DD10It’s getting hot on the dance floor! Samuel Pergande (Johnny) and Jillian Mueller (Baby) sizzle in the Broadway Sacramento presentation of Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage. (Photo by Matthew Murphy.)

What better Christmas gift for mom than tickets to a Broadway Sacramento show? As we made our way into the Community Center Theater for opening night, my mom and I discovered that neither of us had ever seen the movie version of Dirty Dancing from start to finish — just caught clips of it on TV. Seen by millions across the globe, we were intrigued to finally see it live on stage. (I heard nobody can put Baby in a corner…)

As expected, the dancing was as mesmerizing as ever. Samuel Pergande and Jillian Mueller as Johnny Castle and Frances “Baby” Houseman wow the crowd with every two-step. I am always in awe of dancers, who are capable of moving with such grace. My dance moves most resemble Baby’s jerky flails as she receives her first dance lesson from Johnny. (Though, while Baby makes progress on her dancing; my skills stop there.)

If the dancing doesn’t make you want to get out of your seat, surely the music will. The love story takes you back to the 80s with hit songs “Hungry Eyes,” “Hey Baby,” “Do You Love Me?” and the heart-stopping “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.”

The show continues daily through January 4, 2015, and tickets are available online or by calling the box office at (916) 557-1999.

Note: For anyone who attended the cancelled December 26 show, the set issues have been resolved. Broadway Sacramento will refund your money or exchange your tickets for a different performance (subject to availability).

**This review was written by guest writer, Alison Kranz.

Get to Know September 2014 Featured Artist Vince Horiuchi

September Featured Artist ProfileThis September breaks it down with breakdancer, videographer, and Internet phenom, Vince Horiuchi. His path to dance fame was not without obstacles. Instead of following a safe career in engineering, the bboy followed his dreams of becoming a professional dancer. Vince’s passion for making moves and inspiring others can be seen at dance competitions worldwide and on his popular YouTube channel, VincaniTV.

Read what fuels his creative spirit here.

CORE Explores Our Inner Beauty With ‘barebones’

barebones core dance collective

Photo by Chris Kisela.

“When pretenses and facades are stripped away, we are all the same – we have the same ‘bare bones’.”

As if I needed any encouragement to attend another CORE Contemporary Dance show, Director Kelli Leighton once again presents a theme that I simply cannot miss! The older I get, the more I come to realize that despite how complicated life seems, it really is pretty simple. We are trained to surround ourselves with materialistic, self-serving, unnecessary ‘things’ (objects, people, ideals) that distract us from this very simple fact: we are all made up of the same matter and are all here just trying to live the best we know how. This show explores this fundamental human connection, imploring us all to recognize that our differences lie on the outside and the freedom found in learning to accept this… and move on.

If you are one of those people that aren’t into Dance or Theatre performances, I encourage you to come to one of CORE’s shows. With simple themes that we can all identify with, along with music we all know, the dancers poetically express things through movements that tap into your emotions.

Let me put it this way: Every single show by CORE sells out. Grab a friend (or a few) and try something new.

This show can be seen this Thursday, Friday or Saturday only (March 13-15). For more details or to get your tickets, visit the Sacramento365 event page.

This blog post was written by’s Marketing & Development Manager, Rachael Lankford.

The sizzling art of Flamenco dance hits Sacramento

Flamenco dancer Savannah Fuentes. Photo by Tito Fuentes.

Flamenco dancer Savannah Fuentes. Photo by Tito Fuentes.

In an intimate black box theatre in West Sacramento Savannah Fuentes and her musical duo, comprised of Jesus Montoya and Bobby de Sofia, created a night of fast-moving fun on their Girasoles Summer Flamenco Tour. Having never seen Flamenco live it was truly a treat as this artistic trifecta worked so effortlessly off one another, transferring a fantastic energy to the audience and keeping me hooked with every strum of the guitar and move of the feet.

Before the dancing had even begun the audience was treated to a musical introduction courtesy of Montoya and Sofia. The intertwining of Montoya’s strong vocals with Sofia’s beautiful and skillful guitar playing brought out the Flamenco spirit in everyone, especially with the occasional “olé” from Montoya. As Fuentes entered the stage she moved with such grace, making each step artistic. But as the movement picked up I found myself captivated by the quick stamps and kicks of the feet and the fluidity of the arms, the movement of which was an art form in itself. Between the exciting music, the beauty and intensity of Fuentes’ dance, and not to mention the gorgeous and constantly changing outfits of the evening, this night succeeded in showing Flamenco in its true glory.

With simply a singer, a guitarist, and a dancer these three were able to make a night of excitement and showcase the fun and fiery art that is Flamenco dance. Don’t miss out on the next opportunity to see this event. Olé!

Don’t miss Tony Award-winning Billy Elliot the Musical!

Noah Parets (Billy) and Rich Hebert (Dad) in “Billy Elliot the Musical” presented by Broadway Sacramento at The Community Center Theater through April 14, 2013. Photo by Amy Boyle.

Noah Parets (Billy) and Rich Hebert (Dad) in “Billy Elliot the Musical” presented by Broadway Sacramento at The Community Center Theater through April 14, 2013. Photo by Amy Boyle.

What do tutus and coal miners have in common? Well, nothing really, which is why when a young Billy Elliot tells his family of coal miners that he wants to be a ballet dancer, they are all but supportive of his dream.

Billy Elliot the Musical (Broadway Sacramento/California Musical Theatre) at Community Center Theater, is about a boy with an unlikely talent in the midst of a small Northern English town fighting for the preservation of the coal industry they are so dependent on. Although the odds are against Billy getting out of Durham, his talent is his only ticket out of the mines.

The company of “Billy Elliot the Musical” presented by Broadway Sacramento at The Community Center Theater through April 14, 2013. Photo by Kyle Froman.

The company of “Billy Elliot the Musical” presented by Broadway Sacramento at The Community Center Theater through April 14, 2013. Photo by Kyle Froman.

Based on the movie of the same name, Billy Elliot features music by Elton John and is gorgeously arranged and performed. As would be expected, the dance numbers are also spectacular, most of which are performed by dancers under the age of 13. Audiences will be in absolute awe that the young boy playing Billy Elliot can not only act, sing, and dance, but can also hold down a Northern English accent with the best of them. Those young actors (the role of Billy Elliot is shared by Ben Cook, Drew Minard, Noah Parets, and Mitchell Tobin) deserve every standing ovation they will receive through the duration of this touring production.

The company of “Billy Elliot the Musical” presented by Broadway Sacramento at The Community Center Theater through April 14, 2013. Photo by Kyle Froman.

Janet Dickinson (Mrs. Wilkinson) and cast of “Billy Elliot the Musical” presented by Broadway Sacramento at The Community Center Theater through April 14, 2013. Photo by Doug Blemker.

Billy Elliot is a piece of musical theatre perfection, made so by its poignant story, beautiful music, and superb talent both on stage and off. It’s no wonder that Billy Elliot has won a laundry list of Tony Awards including Best Musical.

Billy Elliot plays at the Community Center Theater until April 14, with ticket prices ranging from $24-$99. Tickets are still available by calling (916) 557-1999, at the Wells Fargo Pavilion Box Office, or online at Don’t miss Les Miserables, the final play in the 2012-2013 Broadway Sacramento series, playing from May 29-June 9, and be sure to check out the list of upcoming shows for the 2013-2014 season!