Noted dancer/choreographer launches series at Sonoma Community Center

The Sonoma Community Center’s new Live Exploratory Arts Department is all about just that – the fun of exploring new kinds of creativity, and discovering just what you can do when you give yourself the freedom to try.

Art can sometimes feel serious – like something meant only for the ultra-talented, or those who dedicate thousands of hours to their craft. But really, all you need to be an artist is a sense of lightheartedness, and openness to possibility.

Take dancer, choreographer and new community center guest instructor Lawrence Pech, for example. His resume is certainly impressive: after winning his first choreography award at age 16, he was accepted as a dancer at the famed American Ballet Theater (ABT) in New York, then under the direction of Mikhail Baryshnikov. He went on to become a principal at the San Francisco Ballet, founded two dance companies of his own, and has, for the last two and a half decades, been the ballet master and resident choreographer at the San Francisco Opera.

These are all illustrious credentials. But when asked about interesting experiences he’s had in his career, Pech recalls how, every New Year’s Eve, he and the other dancers at ABT would play tricks on each other during the final performance of “The Nutcracker.” He also remembers falling flat on his “derriere,” on center stage at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York during the world premiere of Baryshnikov’s “Giselle.” Pech was alone on stage with Baryshnikov when it happened, and he recalls how the latter “couldn’t stop laughing, while pretending to cry over Giselle’s grave.”

By taking this kind of lighthearted approach to creativity, one can open themself up to the wonder and joy of making art. That sense of wonder is what made Pech first fall in love with ballet when he was little: “I knew I wanted to be on Broadway. I was going to learn some ballet, tap, jazz or sword swallowing, do an audition, and get in a show. But my first ballet class blew me away. That you could turn your body into an instrument of moving art. I’d always loved architecture, physics, and music – and they all came together in ballet.”

Pech hopes to bring that same sense of amazement to his students this month. “Creativity is a big pie,” he says he likes to tell his students. “Each slice – dance, music, drama, visual arts, literature, cooking, gardening – anything that makes something new and beautiful (in the eye of the beholder) out of something else, or nothing, is the most glorious thing we as humans can achieve. As a dancer, to be able to transform this body into a piece of art – we don’t need a piano, brushes, or a reed – we’re it.”

The community center invites everyone to come explore and discover creativity through its new Live Exploratory Arts Department. Pech will teach a Choreography Class as well as an all-levels teen ballet class starting this month. He says his students can expect “fun, challenges, light bulbs going on, achievement, inclusivity and belonging.”

Other current Live Exploratory Arts offerings include a bilingual yoga class, kids’ creative movement and ballet classes, private music lessons, an audition class, and a recurring performance open studio.

Learn more at sonomacommunitycenter.org or reach out to Eric Jackson at [email protected]

Live Exploratory Arts classes

Unified Ballet

Lawrence Pech kicks off his series with a ballet class for all skill levels. It will cover the history of the dance style, music appreciation, linking the body and brain, technical proficiency and discipline, among other lessons.

Date: Saturday, Feb. 12-April 2

Time: 11:30-12:20 p.m.

Cost: $148 ($133 members)

Choreography Class

Lawrence Pech will teach this class for adults and teens designed to make “lasting physical works of art.” It will cover the vocabulary of dance, music appreciation, mathematics of dance and how all these pieces come together into a work of art.

Date: Saturday, Feb. 12-April 2

Time: 12:30-1:30 p.m.

Cost: $148 ($133 members)

Gentle Yoga

This class for adults teaches the basics of this ancient exercise. It is instructed by Maythe Ortiz.

Date/Time: Tuesday, Feb. 15-April 19, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Or Wednesday, Feb. 16-April 20, from 9-10 a.m.

Cost: $20 per class (drop in), an 6-week punch card for $96 ($16 per class), 8-week punch card for $112 ($14 per class); 10-week punch card for $120 ($12 per class).

Awesome Auditions

Eric Jackson and Joshua Bailey team up to prepare teens and adults for their big break in this workshop. Every participant will get the chance to perform material, work one-on-one with the instructors, and receive specific feedback.

Date: Saturday, Feb. 19

Time: 3-5:30 p.m.

Cost: $45 ($41 members)

Creative Movement and Dance

The popular Miss Molly inspires little learners (ages 4-5) to move their bodies. The will cover basic positions, and how to use stories and props to bring dances to life.

Date: Saturday, Feb. 26-April 23

Time: 9:30-10:15 a.m.

Cost: $148 ($134 members)

Pre-Ballet and Jazz Dance

Miss Molly’s class is focused on students age 6-8 years old. Instruction will include warm up exercises, increased vocabulary and beginning mini ballet barre ballet positions, across the floor exercises, beginning turns and leaps as well as partner work.

Date: Saturday, Feb. 26-April 23

Time: 10:30-11:15 p.m.

Cost: $148 ($134 members)

To sign up for classes, visit sonomacommunitycenter.com. Scholarships are available for some classes.

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