Looking for something unique to do this weekend? We have just the thing. SFDanceworks is launching their third season in San Francisco premiering new works by current choreographers at Fort Mason.

We had the opportunity to catch up with Artistic Director and Founder James Sofranko (who is also a Soloist at SF Ballet) to give you the inside scoop of what makes their company so unique and why it’s a must-see. Scroll below to find out more…!

Image result for james sofranko

After working with SF Ballet since 2007, why did you decide to create SFDanceWorks in 2014?

I’ve actually been a dancer with SFB since 2000, so I just retired from the company after my 18th year.  (I was promoted to soloist in 2007.)  I’ve always enjoyed classical ballet as well as contemporary dance, and I have background and training in both, from the Juilliard School in NYC.

SFDanceworks is a company that I always wished was here in the Bay Area, just for me to sit in the audience and enjoy!  I loved when other contemporary dance companies such as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Nederlands Dans Theater came to town, but it wasn’t often enough!  I think a company that does different styles and showcases numerous choreographers from different generations, is important to the dance community.

Photos by Erik Tomasson

When did you start choreographing vs. dancing? Which do you love most?

I starting dancing at 5 years old in Cincinnati Ohio, and I made my first “piece” while in high school.  I’ve been dabbling here and there with choreography ever since, and now that I’m done with my full-time dancing career, I’m excited to focus more on the creation process.

Through my years at San Francisco Ballet I’ve worked with many of the world’s best choreographers, and because of that, I feel I have a rich experience to pull from when making a new work.  I’m not sure which I’ll love more, there’s nothing like the rush of adrenaline when performing as a dancer, and I don’t think anything will ever replace that.  But to know that I’ll be integral to passing on those experiences to other dancers is also an exciting opportunity.

What makes SFDW unique to other dance companies?

SFDW is unique to the Bay Area dance community because it is truly a repertory company, and not created as a vehicle for a single choreographer.  I am a choreographer, true, but as director of SFDW I act more like a curator, and I’m not trying to make this company a place for only my work to be seen.  There are so many great works of contemporary dance out there in the world, and they are not seen nearly enough.

I want SFDW to be a place where the public can come to experience the works of master choreographers who have already sealed their place in history, as well as witness the creation of brand new works from young artists who will lead our art form into the future.  In only two years we’ve presented works from masters such as Lar Lubovitch, Jose Limon, and Christopher Bruce, alongside recent works from talented artists such as Alejandro Cerrudo, Penny Saunders, and Danielle Rowe.

 Brett Conway and Danielle Rowe, photo by Andrew Weeks

Can you tell me more about your upcoming third season and what you’re most excited about?

In Season Three coming up, I’m very excited about Nacho Duato’s work titled “Jardi Tancat.”  Jardi Tancat means enclosed garden and is set to the songs of Catalonian folk singer Maria Del Mar Bonet.  It is a powerful piece for a community of 3 couples who work the land and care for each other.  The movement quality is expansive yet grounded, and the choreography is so musical, I just love it!

Red Curtain Addict

Can you tell us more about your world premiere piece? Why did you choose to set it to Shubert and how do you go about creating a new work?

And of course I’m excited about my own premiere, but that is a bit unknown as I’m in the middle of its creation right now!  But I can tell you that it is about a community that is struggling with how to deal with individuals who stray from the group.
I am so excited to have live music for the piece, set to piano impromptus by Franz Schubert, played by Ronny Michael Greenberg, who is an amazing pianist who plays with the San Francisco Ballet and Opera.  Schubert is a composer that I’ve always been drawn to, his work can be light and free, or brooding and haunting, but it’s always gorgeous!  And it lends itself to well to dance.
For the process of creating a new work, I listen to the music over and over so that I can know it as well as I know myself.  This helps me dive deeper into the feelings that it evokes in me and guides me in what to create!

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