“To the Sea” merges cinema and dance on Santa Monica Pier

By Christina Campodonico

Dancers from Jacob Jonas’ company are out to prove that dance is dope
Photo by Jacob Jonas

L.A. choreographer Jacob Jonas got his start in dance as a teenager busking on the Venice Boardwalk, cutting his teeth with the Calypso Tumblers and the late street dance legend Vincent
“Mr. Animation” Foster.

“My heart has always been in the art form of dance,” says Jonas, whose unique brand of break dancing and ballet has earned him accolades in the press and sold out runs at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.

Now the 25-year-old Santa Monica local and founder of Jacob Jonas The Company is taking his passion for dance to the Santa Monica Pier, where this weekend he’s presenting a free dance festival entitled “To the Sea” in partnership with the L.A.-based dance film festival Dance Camera West.

The two-night event, supported in part by city grants, features live dance performances curated by Jonas and film screenings curated by Dance Camera West.

Montreal circus company Les 7 Doigts de La Main, commercial dance trio The Seaweed Sisters, American Ballet Theater dancer Jeffrey Cirio’s Cirio Collective and Michael Jackson choreographer Tony Testa are among the featured acts before sunset. Screenings start at dusk and include two dance film shorts as well as
a dance-driven retelling of “Romeo and Juliet” in contemporary South Africa.

“Live dance is visceral. Film is much more intimate. Putting the two together has been working really well,” Dance Camera West Executive Director Tonia Barber says of bringing in dance companies to perform in concert with original film programming.

For Jonas, bringing together dance and film at the pier both merges his interests in dance and cinematography (his short film “Grey” will also screen at the festival) and is an appealing way to introduce concert, commercial and street dance to younger audiences.

“So often we tend to want to look at dance in a theater,” says Jonas, noting how he rarely sees people his age at dance concerts because of performance venues’ high ticket prices and strict dress codes, “but there’s something about the rawness and energy of street performance. … The pier becomes a really great platform.”

For dance, that is. The pier’s iconic status, beach setting and come-as-you-are vibe make it an ideal spot for attracting new and younger audiences.

Jonas’ hope is that people will walk away thinking “dance is a really dope art form,” he says.

“To the Sea: Dance Concerts at the Pier” starts at 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday (April 29 and 30). Free, but RSVP at tothesea.eventbrite.com.