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La ALTERNATIVA: mobilizing dance education

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- La ALTERNATIVA, an alternative dance conservatory based in San Francisco California (as seen in photos 1 and 2), was founded in 2009 by dance artist Kathleen Hermesdorf and musician Albert Mathias. Also serving as a launch pad for productions and performances, La ALTERNATIVA offers training programs lasting anywhere from several days to several months. Their two annual intensives feature total immersion (10am-10pm) that rides the cutting edge of contemporary dance by deeply integrating dance and music improvisation and training. Hermesdorf and Mathias began their collaborative work in 1998 under the title MOTIONLAB, after meeting in Sara Shelton Mann’s company Contraband. Their desire to make music and mixed-media a key element in the program’s structure led to the subsequent creation of La ALTERNATIVA.

Kathleen Hermesdorf and Albert Mathias have an extensive history of individual and collaborative work in the San Francisco Bay area, each having received several prestigious awards in their respective fields, including a 2006 Bessie award for work with the Bebe Miller Company. Not lacking in accomplishments, this experienced duo is a source of live inspiration in the studio setting.

A modern dance class taught by Kathleen Hermesdorf and accompanied by Albert Mathias is an experience unlike any other: live music complements the dancing in an unbroken wave, inviting/inciting/provoking the dancers to soar through a series of rigorous combinations and improvisations that fully awaken the whole body and its senses to the 3-dimensionality of space, vibration of sound waves, and manifestation of other dancers’ energies in the space. What begins as an open, inert room is transformed into a vibrant, buzzing space by the class’s sweaty, breathless end. A master of addressing everything from the most subtle body sensations to fully committed exhilarating movements, Kathleen Hermesdorf has perfected a teaching methodology that integrates traditional phrasework, energy/bodywork, and improvisation—a mix inspired by the experimentation and hybridization of art forms. La ALTERNATIVA represents Hermesdorf’s desire to bring something radically different to modern dance education.

Hermesdorf explains, “My goal with Alternative Conservatory is to counteract a certain homogeny I see in dance education, especially in America, by utilizing more self-awareness and self-responsibility and eradicating mirrors and clocks; to counteract the concept of being a good student instead of a good artist; to offer opportunities of exploration and investigation that I was able to experience in company settings, community and professional exchange.”

Hermesdorf views La ALTERNATIVA as a way of cultivating global growth, exchange, and access to professional training, as the workshops attract an international mix of artists. Hermesdorf explains that the Alternative Conservatory is “based in practice, experience, interaction, and exchange”, and that many participants return annually and create ongoing trans-continental relationships. La ALTERNATIVA programs events through its residency at KUNST-STOFF arts (San Francisco) under direction of Yannis Adoniou, and branches out to satellites at Ponderosa Tanzland in Berlin Germany through collaboration with Stephanie Maher, as well as Mazatlan Mexico with Delfos Danza Contemporanea. Workshops are offered by a rotating faculty, which includes Sara Shelton Mann, Abby Crain, Maria Francesca Scaroni, Yannis Adoniou, and Keith Hennessy.

Upcoming events include the FRESH Festival - 2 weeks of abundant dance and music, art and action, interaction and inspiration to usher in the new year. You can find more information about La ALTERNATIVA and upcoming events onlinehere.

Photo 1 courtesy of Carlos López Pantoja and La ALTERNATIVA

Photo 2 courtesy of La ALTERNATIVA