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Jesse Locks: Moved by plot-driven choreography

Last spring I had the privilege to travel with students from the Sierra College Dance Club and advisor Lovie Bucknell to the Mondavi Center at UC Davis to see a sold-out performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.

To many critics, Alvin Ailey signifies the quintessential American dance company with a dance form that is deeply rooted in American culture. The evening ended with Ailey’s most famous production “Revelations,” a compelling performance that combines plot-driven choreography and music to lead the audience to their feet in a joyous celebration of song, life and dance.

This is just one of many field trips Bucknell has shared with her students during her seven-year teaching career at Sierra College. In addition to teaching modern technique and jazz fusion classes for the college, she is one of the founders and the artistic director for The Movement Alliance (TMA).



Formed in 2002, TMA is one of two professional modern dance companies (Inner Rhythms in Truckee being the second) in Nevada County and surrounding foothill communities. Many of TMA’s members have been recruited from Bucknell’s Sierra College classes, while some are returning or new residents to the area who have danced with other notable companies. Together they are dedicated to promoting modern dance as an authentic American dance form and artistically enriching the community with fresh and innovative work.

Motivated by such experiences as the Alvin Ailey performance, dance classes in San Francisco at ODC and SF Dance Center and local workshops with special guest choreographers from the renowned Robert Moses’ Kin, TMA dramatically raises the bar with their seventh annual fall production called “Small Town.”




It tells the story of Nevada County through multimedia, photography, local music and live dance theater. Pieces focus on the scenic beauty of the area, local legends that reside here, social comedy of smallness and the strong community ties unique to Nevada County.

TMA is known for not only pushing boundaries with their bodies but also with their use of technology and multimedia. Associate Director Marni Marshal’s strong background in the visual arts has encouraged the use of music and film to create a moving experience for audience members. I can’t help recall a piece by TMA on global warming accompanied with music from the Icelandic band Sigur Ros and images of the polar snowcaps melting. I still get goosebumps thinking about it.

“Small Town” also pays homage to the incredibly talented local artists living in Nevada County. The company will kinesthetically translate excerpts from songs by Andrew Hodgson, Mariee Sioux, Aaron Ross, Joanna Newsom, Paul Kamm and Eleanor McDonald, along with a recording of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and writer Gary Snyder. This “local legends section” will end with a special tribute to Utah Phillips, a good friend and supporter of the TMA who the company misses dearly.

“Small Town” ends with the phenomena that so many young adults migrate back home after college or a hiatus in a city, to settle down, be close to family and friends and be a part of a community. Associate Choreographer Marissa Hernanadez portrays these ties with the younger generation through a duet with TMA’s Junior Company, all of whom where on their feet, clapping their hands in celebration at the Mondavi Center in Davis last spring.

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Lemonade is cool and refreshing, usually sweet and a little bit tart. Jesse Locks is a freelance writer who has worked for such esteemed and well-loved publications as Arthur Magazine, Seattle Weekly, and Thrasher Magazine. She is also a UCCE Master Gardener. You can reach her at jesse@arthurmag.com


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