*As mentioned in my “About” section, I may document some experiences that I shared with a friend. The purpose in doing that is to help you understand how to navigate that venue or business if you were on your own. Also, I have visited the Santa Monica Pier and 3rd Street Promenade on my own a few times since To The Sea happened.
I was looking for events in the LA area, and came upon an app called Eventbrite. It searches by city and date, so if you’re looking for something to do on a weekend, it narrows down the search for you.
For this particular event, the flyer had a picture of a dancer backlit by the sun on the beach, which drew my attention. Upon further reading, it was titled “To The Sea: Dance Concerts on the Pier,” and listed 7 acts and 4 films. And it just happened to be the end of the Santa Monica Pier. I hadn’t been there yet either, so it was a two-for-one as far as exploring new things.
The best part of all, it was a free event. You just had to reserve your ticket through Eventbrite because there was limited seating. It was the last weekend in April, and was listed as a 6:00pm start. It was put on by Jacob Jonas The Company and Dance Camera West, with support from the City of Santa Monica and Santa Monica Cultural Affairs.
Since I was still new to the area and trying to become friends with my co-workers, I asked my friend Hana to join me. Keep in mind two things for the remainder of this post, 1) Hana and I both had no idea what to expect, and 2) what I describe can apply to those who decide to do this adventure alone or with a friend.
There are a couple parking garages near the 3rd street promenade in Santa Monica, so we chose one within a few blocks of restaurants and the pier. If you haven’t looked into the app called BestParking, I highly recommend it. It will list all the parking lots, rates, and hours so you know where the cheapest and closest places are, when they close, and if they take cash, card, or either.
Then we wandered down the 3rd Street Promenade looking for food. There are many options, from food trucks to street vendors to restaurants. The whole street is blocked off from vehicles, so there is ample walking space. Sometimes there are even street performers. Randomly we chose Trastevere, which features Italian food. We sat outside on front patio and shared bruschetta and pesto genovese. The atmosphere was nice, and the weather was perfect.
From there we headed to the event because we were pushing 5:30pm. We walked along the park on Ocean Avenue above PCH. It’s always half full of people, who like us were meandering, and half homeless people. On a side note, having encountered homeless people in various states, these ones keep to themselves unless they’re right in front of the entrance to the pier.
As you get closer to the pier, there are there are huge crowds of people walking on and off. Since this event, I’ve gone back on my own, and it’s always like that from the morning until nightfall. Once the sun goes down, it depends on the day. Usually on weekdays at night, it’s relatively less crowded.
The Pier is just like the movies with the restaurants, arcade and carnival games, and the famous ferris wheel. If you continue past those and the kiosk sales people, at the end there are lower walkways on the right and left where people fish off the side of the pier, Then you continue through an opening made by two stairways/seating areas and a restaurant. That is where the dance event was held.
Normally, there is a giant open area where people can sit or walk around and stare at the ocean and sunset. However specifically for the event, there were metal barriers set up to close off the stage and seating area specifically for people with tickets to the event. You technically don’t have to have one, but to be on the inside, you do. And again, you might as well because they’re free.
They had speakers set up on the sides of the stage to project the music they danced to. Jacob came out first and introduced himself and how he created the idea to dance on the end of the pier with not only his company, but also influential dancers in his life and the area. It is completely worth noting that the event was scheduled so that while the dancers were performing, the sun was setting on the ocean behind them.
Herein lies the part that pains me about not writing this piece closer to the actual performance date (April 30, 2017). The following is the order of the pieces, but only a few really stood out to me, so those will be the ones I describe. If there’s a link, I did my best to find the company or performance so you could see for yourself.
“Tactility” by Cirio Collective
“Get Sea” by The Seaweed Sisters
“One Pair Off” by Jacob Jonas The Company
“Fishy” by Tony Testa
Alfie “Al Boogie” Lewis was awarded the Mr. Animation Legacy Award
“Awake O Zion” by Andrew Winghart
“Memories” by Les 7 Doigts De La Main (Mason Ames and Valerie Benoit Charbonneau)
I’ll start with the 4 I remember the least about. However, don’t compare their lack of review to the rate of their performance, but rather that my memory is terrible. Plus when seeing 11 pieces in 3 hours, there are bound to be some that stand out more than others, which is purely individualized depending on who is the viewer.
Tactility was performed by two male dancers from Cirio Collective. I remember both of them being very strong technically. Fishy started out as a solo piece and ended as a group number and seemed kind of intense. Al Boogie was recognized for an award and then performed a solo piece. I couldn’t tell if that one was freestyled or not, but I assumed so because it had an abrupt ending that didn’t coincide with the music. Awake O Zion was incredible in the fact that 12 girls were on a small stage at the same time doing many, constantly changing formations quickly in long, flowing dresses.
Now for the three that really stood out for me. First was The Seaweed Sisters. I hadn’t heard of them before the performance, but I later figured out that locally they are well known in dance circles. Their performance was Hana’s favorite because it’s rare that dance incorporates humor with technicality. Everything was intricate, yet fun. Their outfits, the music, and the interaction between the three and their audience, was all so entertaining.
After all of the performances were done, the choreographers from each piece held a Q&A together and the Seaweed Sisters revealed one method creating their pieces, which I believe they called the “and then” method. They basically make up a move and say “and then” to themselves before leading into another move they make up on the spot, and continue that system from movement to movement until they create a full composition.
The second piece that stood out was Jacob Jonas The Company, and it’s not because they created the event. The piece was four people, and each one had a chance to stand out among the synchronization set to music heavily accented by a metronome. There were tricking moves by two of the four, many levels by all, and a modern feel. I wish I could describe the feeling better. My eyes were glued the entire time. During their Q&A we found out that one of the four, Joy Isabella Brown, had only been in the company for a month and her background was in parkour. She learned the entire routine with no professional dance background, quickly, and then performed it in front a few hundred people. Pretty impressive collaboration.
Finally, the act that stood out the most to everyone in attendance: The 7 Fingers (which is a Canadian group that is normally written in French as Les 7 Doigts). If you look at their website, it’s a variety of acts, but this was just two people. Their specialty is acrobatics incorporated into dance. The performers were Mason Ames and Valerie Benoit Charbonneau. I couldn’t find their specific routine, Memories, but I did find another performance (linked in the list above) that gives you an idea of what they do. During their Q&A we found out they have been working together for a while. It’s clear the stunts they do take incredible trust and strength, as well as tons of practice. There were moments where you could tell the audience was holding their breathing hoping Valerie wouldn’t fall, and each time Mason proved he is a tremendous partner.
While the Q&A was going on, a giant screen was being blown up for the films to be shown. At this point the sun had fully gone down and it got colder. About 2/3 of the audience left unfortunately. If you decide to go to the 2018 To The Sea, which they have the green light on, bring a jacket so you’re comfortable watching the films. Below are the works that were presented. Luckily most of them can be seen in the links, so you can see what I saw.
The only one not online is Jacob Jonas’, but I do briefly remember it. I believe it was filmed at the Getty Museum. It featured the architecture with his company performing in various locations on the grounds. I remember it being very aesthetically pleasing with a majority female casting.
Like the dances in person, it was clear why the last film was chosen to finish the event. Yasuaki’s Move On featured a beautiful concept with equally beautiful filming and execution. It’s no wonder it won so many awards. I urge you to watch the link mentioned above.
After it was completely over, Hana and I walked back to our car. On the way we talked about our favorites, but also took in the night life of Santa Monica. On the pier, you see vendors who write each letter of your name in a different water color pattern. You may usually see this at fairs and picture them going in a little girl’s room. I’m always surprised at how many grown adults I see carrying them around and wonder where in their house they’re going to put those. We also saw some more dancing in the form of street performers on the 3rd Street Promenade before finishing the evening.
Like I mentioned, if you can go to it this year, I highly recommend it. Even though that means it’ll be more crowded for me. If you’re looking for a true “California experience,” being on the Santa Monica Pier with a display of talented art being performed during sunset is a pretty great option.