Dancing in the streets


It’s Back! Trolley Dances Return for a 10th Anniversary Celebration

By Tina Safi

Jean Isaacs San Diego Dance Theater is teaming once again with the Metropolitan Transit System to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Trolley Dances. Performances will take place on Sept. 27 and 28 and Oct. 4 and 5. This anniversary will celebrate 10 years of hard work, including the efforts of nearly 30 choreographers and 450 featured dancers over the years.

Patrons can ride the trolley to locations throughout the city where dancers perform at stops. The performances will kick off at Hazard Center, followed by a trolley tour on the Green Line along the San Diego River. The trolley will then switch to the Blue Line in Old Town and performances will continue to downtown’s Santa Fe Depot.

Trolley Dances will feature a crowd favorite, choreographer Monica Bill Barnes, as well as routines by San Diego Dance Theater veteran Terry Wilson, local hip-hop performer and teacher Anthony Rodriguez, and Katie Stevinson-Nollet of Full Force Dance Theatre in Hartford, Conn.

Audiences at last year’s Trolley Dances were captivated by routines with names like “Attack of the Swiss Gardeners” and “Ten Green Bottles Standing on the Bar.” Although this year’s performance names have not yet been determined, artistic director Jean Isaacs is looking forward to a variety of dances.

“I don’t see any of the other choreographers’ performances until the day of the show,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what Monica Bill Barnes has done, because it’s supposed to include a swimming pool in a condo complex. Also, Anthony Rodriguez is planning a hip-hop version of “Alice in Wonderland,” set on fire escapes surrounded by barbed wire!”

Isaacs is using some of her strongest dancers for a piece at the Mission Valley Preserve. Because the dry, hot area has no electricity, the company is generating sound from a friend’s nearby motor home and hooking up an acoustic violin so that people can hear.

Trolley Dances began in 1999 with a one of a kind, city-geared concept: Introduce people to places they haven’t been exposed to, in a fun and memorable way. Throughout the years, performances have taken place along Trolley lines in Old Town, Downtown, Mission Valley, Grantville/SDSU, Euclid Avenue and Smart Corner.

“The Trolley Dances experience is really quite magical,” said dancer Greg Lane, who resides in La Jolla. “Taking dance out of its usual theater venue makes it more personal, interactive and relevant somehow. For me, performing outdoors in these unusual spaces is very fun and creative.”

Lane encourages the partnership of the San Diego Dance Theater with the Metropolitan Transit System. “I really appreciate large corporations that have a civic awareness of the vitally important role that art plays in making the world a better place to live,” he said. “I have performed in many different types of venues: Small stages, living rooms, banquet halls, castles, middle eastern ruins. Dance, music and art happen where you make it.”

Through an amusing take on dance and over-the-top scenery and customs, Trolley Dances attract wide-ranging audiences of children, adults, students and seniors. For example, for a piece at the Santa Fe Depot, Isaacs auditioned dancers with rolling suitcases as props. She emphasized that this is an event for all ages, as it is one of the only family-friendly shows the San Diego Dance Theater puts on all year.

The two hour tours run 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Tickets are $30 for general admission, $20 for seniors and $10 for students and include an all day Trolley Pass. Children under 5 and people in wheelchairs are free. For tickets and information call (619) 225-1803 or visit


Tina Safi is a freelance writer from Poway. She is a recent graduate of Boston University.