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Dancing through life: Local dancer performing at the Metropolitan Opera, Sierra Cinemas to broadcast it live

Sam Corey
Staff Writer

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The show will broadcast live at Sierra Cinemas at 9:55 a.m. March 14.

For more information about local tickets, click here.

For more information and tickets to the Met, visit http://www.metopera.org.

When Alison Clancy entered New York City’s Metropolitan Opera to conduct her final dress rehearsal the morning of Feb. 28, she found herself crying.

Walking through the front door, wearing a red dress in preparation for her show “Der Fliegende Holländer,” the dancer felt the sunshine reflecting toward her. She felt the magnitude of her upcoming performance and contained it within her presence.

“It’s all just really magical,” she said, “it’s very otherworldly.”

The Nevada City-raised, Nevada Union High School graduate who has danced since she was 5 will perform an 11-minute solo dance at the Met Opera between now and March 27. She called it the “culminating moment of her career.”

The dance, directed by Francois Girard and choreographed by Carolyn Choa, will broadcast live at Sierra Cinemas at 9:55 a.m. March 14, according to the theater’s co-manager Azriel LaMarca. The show is part of Sierra Cinema’s Met Opera Live in HD Series.

The rise

Clancy received her first dance scholarship at age 7. After auditioning with the Sierra Dance Institute, she received the opportunity to take classes four days per week under the condition that she cleaned the studio on Saturdays. From there, she said she later began taking extra dance classes in Sacramento, danced at Nevada Union and later went to the New York University Tisch School of the Arts where she danced eight hours per day only to frequently go to the gym afterward.

The beauty of dance and her work, she said, has been the challenge and the opportunity to learn.

“I think I’ve always just loved it,” she said. “My nature is that I love dancing and I love working and I love learning.”

From there, like so many artists, she said her life has been a bit unstable. Periods of time rotate between a surplus and dearth of work opportunities in the dance industry. And there have been injuries: she broke two bones in her feet last summer. It was then that she weighed the possibility of giving up her dancing career, and considered taking a more conventional path, possibly becoming a doctor or lawyer.

“‘Wow, this is my foundation crumbling on me,’” she remembers thinking. “I definitely was questioning it because that was really painful and really intense.”

But the opportunities continued to come, and so she never gave up dance.

“I’m a lifer,” she said. “I’m an artist, this is who I am. “To me, the most important currency in this life is time, and I’ve spent the time doing the things that I’ve loved. I haven’t put any part of my life into things that I don’t care about.”

At this point, Clancy’s studied under people like the acclaimed Zen master of ballet Zvi Gotheiner, and has been dancing in performances at the Met for 10 years.

She said she’s incorporated influences from every category of dance, having explored hip hop, jazz, swing, tango, ballroom and others. Mostly though, she considers herself a contemporary dancer with a strong ballet technique, which she said showcases a “sacred geometry,” teaching dancers to take command of their bodies, connecting them to the floor below.


Having danced in prominent shows before, Clancy said this upcoming one at the Met Opera is different as she’s no longer merely “part of the scene.” Her solo dance is one that doesn’t emphasize singers or musicians, but instead the dancer and story she’s telling.

“Der Fliegende Holländer,” or The Flying Dutchman, originally conducted by Richard Wagner, is about many things, but Clancy’s role is to embody Senta, a woman who sacrifices herself for her father’s salvation.

“While creating this performance,” said Clancy, “I’m inspired by medieval maidens, anime warrior princesses, the Statue of Liberty, mystic dreamers — a wide range of powerful female characters. I hope to find my power in a kind of softness and vulnerability.”

In addition to her New York performances, Clancy said she returns to Nevada County each year to develop a dance with Nevada Union students. Some students have now been working with Clancy for four years in a row, according to the dancer.

One former Nevada Union student, Annie Aguilar, recently wrote a grant from her school, Middlebury College, to commission Clancy as a guest teacher to conduct a solo performance.

That piece, according to Clancy, used scattered projected lighting and slow motion dancing techniques — coincidentally offering a similar aura that Clancy will be leveraging this month at the Met Opera.

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.

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