SAN DIEGO — Although hearing orchestral music in Symphony Hall remains only a remote possibility, two major American dance companies will visit the hall next season. Suzanne Townsend and Gloria Bohrer, co-founders of the newly formed San Diego Performances organization, unveiled their new dance series in the Symphony Hall board room Wednesday afternoon.
San Francisco Ballet's acclaimed production of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" will inaugurate the new series with seven Civic Theatre performances over Thanksgiving weekend. The week of Feb. 8, 1988, Townsend's series will bring Arthur Mitchell and the Dance Theatre of Harlem to Symphony Hall for seven performances, two of which will be danced free of charge for schoolchildren. Later that same month, the irreverent, avant-garde dance troupe Pilobolus will perform in Symphony Hall.
The inaugural dance series will conclude with a weeklong residence of Twyla Tharp Dance Company at the Civic Theatre, beginning on April 13, 1988. Of Tharp's five performances, two will be staged for secondary school students.
Although final plans have not yet been drawn up, Townsend also promised a San Diego visit from the apogee of contemporary minimalist music, the Philip Glass Ensemble. Playing the accompaniment to the film "Koyaanisqatsi," the Glass group would play Symphony Hall sometime in October, 1988, with a program co-sponsored by the La Jolla-based Visual Arts Foundation, according to Townsend.
Townsend praised San Francisco's 1986 "The Nutcracker" as "everything a 'Nutcracker' should be." The million-dollar production features choreography by Lew Christensen, William Christensen and Helgi Tomasson, with costumes by Jose Varona.
"However, we are not going to be just another 'Nutcracker' stop for this company," Townsend added. "We have a three-year agreement with them, and we hope to bring other works in their repertory during the second or third year."
Seventy local children will be involved in the San Francisco Ballet production, with auditions held in October. Two local participants will be awarded scholarships to attend the School of the San Francisco Ballet in the summer of 1988.
Maxine Mahon, director of the California Ballet, declined to comment on the scheduled visit of San Francisco's "The Nutcracker," although the visiting production could detract from her San Diego company's annual pre-Christmas rendition of the holiday classic. With California Ballet's season and two series of imported dance offerings, Mahon did question the community's ability to support that many dance programs.
"For the last 19 years, I've developed San Diego artists to perform for San Diego. We've developed a loyal following for dance without hurting or stepping on anyone else. I'm a dance producer, not just a presenter," Mahon said.
Diane Annala, spokeswoman for the San Diego Foundation for the Performing Arts, the area's sole dance importer before Townsend's new organization, welcomed the new series.
"I think it's wonderful," said Annala. "If a new presenter feels comfortable in presenting a new series, then we feel we have accomplished our goal of building an audience for dance in San Diego."
Annala pointed out that, before arts benefactor Danah Fayman's San Diego Foundation for the Performing Arts, touring dance troupes were not regularly presented here. "Five years ago, San Diego was not known as a dance town, but that is changing," said Annala. Until December, 1986, Townsend was executive director of Fayman's foundation.
Townsend estimated her budget for the 1987-88 series at $1.1 million. She and Bohrer obtained seed money for their organization by personally securing lines of credit through local banks. San Diego Performances will have no office of its own, operating out of Townsend's Point Loma home. It will use the San Diego Theatre League's downtown Arts Tix service for ticket sales and distribution.