Ballet Pacifica continues to cast its net wide to bring in guest choreographers and commission new works. The latest venture, brainstormed by company artistic director Molly Lynch and New York choreographer Diane Coburn Bruning, will be a two-week choreographers' project, beginning today and culminating in a dance concert Aug. 3 at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa.
"What we're trying to do is promote newer talent in dance," says Lynch, who sent out letters to 25 choreographers around the country announcing the project.
"About 18 responded, sending videotapes and resumes," she said. "Out of those . . . I asked nine to submit a proposal for the summer project. Out of the nine, we chose four to come."
The four are Leslie Jane Pessemier from San Francisco, and Colin Conner, William Soleau and James Sewell, all from New York.
Lynch said it was hard to whittle down the list. "Any one of the nine would have been great," she said. "Probably any one of the 18 original choreographers who sent us videotapes would have been great."
She made the decisions on the basis of "works that I felt were bringing a new sense and new ideas to dance" as well as on finding "a variety of works that would suit our company as well as provide variety for the audience in general."
She said that the choreographers were free to create whatever they wanted as long as the works lasted "between 12 and 20 minutes" and drew upon a cast of "between two and nine dancers, with a maximum of three men."
At the Aug. 3 concert, which will be a workshop event without scenery or elaborate costumes, the audience will be able to hear the choreographers and question them about their work. "If it suits our company," Lynch said, "possibly we will premiere the pieces on a regular subscription concert. Then we would have costumes and scenery, whatever is necessary."
Commissioning work is not a new endeavor for Lynch, who took over the Laguna Beach-based company in 1988. "But we've never had several choreographers at one time before," she said. "Four was a number we felt would be manageable in terms of rehearsals and other resources."
Lynch picked South Coast Repertory as the site of the concert partly because she used to work there (for 2 1/2 years as director of fund-raising before taking over Ballet Pacifica) and partly to draw new audiences.
"South Coast Repertory has a strong reputation of doing commissioned works and new works," she said. "I thought we might draw on some of the same audience that is prepared to go to South Coast Repertory to see new things."
She said that the budget for the project is $40,000, which covers fees for the commissions, dancers' fees, housing for the choreographers and a per diem for them, too. (The figure is exclusive of the annual budget for the company, which is $265,000, she said.) Lynch did a special fund-raiser for the project.
"I felt there would be people who would be interested in funding new projects and work like this rather than just supporting general operating costs," she said. "I didn't have to steal from Peter to pay Paul."
Lynch said that she wants to host the event annually or perhaps every two years. "But we will have to evaluate it," she said. "It's hard to know without having done it yet how it will go.
"But it's important for us to support choreographers coming up these days and provide them with opportunities to produce new works. It's difficult. They have to have the space and the time to work with the dancers, which is hard to do sometimes."
What: Ballet Pacifica's "Choreographic Project '91."
When: Thursday, July 18, through Aug. 3, with dance concert Aug. 3 at 8 p.m.
Where: South Coast Repertory Theatre, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.
Whereabouts: San Diego (405) Freeway to Bristol Street exit north. Bristol to Town Center Drive.
Where to call: (714) 957-4033.