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San Diego Dance Theater dancers perform at Trolley Dances in an undated photo.
Courtesy of Yvonne M. Portra
San Diego Dance Theater dancers perform at Trolley Dances in an undated photo.

San Diego weekend arts events: Trolley Dances, poetry and motel soap art


Trolley Dances returns to the Blue Line in San Diego this weekend for its 25th year. Founded by San Diego Dance Theater's Jean Isaacs, the company's current director Terry Wilson has taken over curation of the site-specific, touring dance showcase. Wilson was dancing professionally for the company when Isaacs started Trolley Dances, and both women will choreograph pieces in the show, along with Dr. grace shinhae jun of bkSOUL, Blythe Barton, Kim Epifano and DanzArts.

Wilson considers the project public art because the performances are held in unexpected spaces outdoors, and are specific to each site. The general, unticketed public can also stumble upon a performance — and Wilson said those unwitting passersby are "really quite fun."

"The public part of it is a piece of education, that's real important, I think, to bring that dance to people that really won't see it — they may not ever go to the theater to see dance," Wilson said.

KPBS is embarking on a series to explore public art. Follow this series for stories about the artists who make these works, why public art is created, what impact it has and where it can be found.

Dancers are shown performing in Trolley Dances on Sept. 28, 2019.
Courtesy of Jim Carmody
Dancers are shown performing in Trolley Dances on Sept. 28, 2019.

That intentional step outside of a traditional theater is also the Trolley Dances origin story.

“It was an opportunity to present art without having to rent a theater. I would say sadly, there are very few theaters in this city that San Diego Dance Theater can afford at this point," Wilson said.

The company operates their own small performance space, the stage-less Light Box Theater in Liberty Station, and participates in La Jolla Playhouse's Without Walls (WOW) Festival each year — another example of outdoor, site-specific performance like Trolley Dances.

"There's a practical component to it. And then it caught fire, and it's something that people look forward to every fall," Wilson said.


For ticketed audience members, tour guides lead them along the trolley route, to each performance space, and then back onto their next trolley. Tours begin at Old Town Transit Center, and performances take place at several stops along the Blue Line, including Old Town, Little Italy and Park and Market. Tours last several hours, and involve two to three blocks of walking at one stop. General admission is $35, but discounted rates are available for seniors, military, students and artists.

Details: Tours run hourly from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 16-17. Old Town Transit Center, 4009 Taylor St., Old Town. $20-$35.


Poet and author Kazim Ali is shown in an undated photo.
Courtesy of J Sutton Photo
Poet and author Kazim Ali is shown in an undated photo.

Poet and writer Kazim Ali just published a new collection of poetry, "Sukun," which is a mixture of new work and selected pieces from his prior collections. Ali is also an accomplished novelist, memoirist and essayist with a gift for narrative, so what first struck me about a piece he read out loud during a recent interview was how lyrical and technical it was, with an almost wizardry of language and a concise, percussive form.

The collection does also showcase Ali's gift for more narrative-styled poetry, shown in a sample poem online, "The Fifth Planet."

Ali said the book's title, "Sukun," is an Arabic word meaning peacefulness or serenity.

"It is also the name of a piece of punctuation. In Arabic, every consonant has a short vowel following it, except if it's marked with a sukūn, and that's a rest on the consonant. So it's kind of like the word 'period,' which has different meanings in English, but also refers to that point of punctuation."

The book is something of a sukūn in Ali's career. In part, it's a retrospective on each stage of his writing life across the last 20 years, but it's also a look ahead.

The book cover for Karla Cordero's "How to Pull Apart the Earth" is shown, published Nov. 11, 2018.
Courtesy of Not A Cult Publishing
The book cover for Karla Cordero's "How to Pull Apart the Earth" is shown, published Nov. 11, 2018.

"It does include about 50 or 60 pages of new poetry and sort of gestures, or it opens the door to the future," Ali said. "It's this sort of pause and reassessment, yes it is what is going to allow me to jump into whatever is next. It's going to show me the way."

Ali will read from the book in a special group reading this weekend called "Poetry Without Borders," along with Karla Cordero, Blas Falconer and Arthur Kayzakian, hosted by William Nericio.

Details: 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16. Verbatim Books, 3793 30th St., North Park. Free.

More dance

"Heartbeats" is a production of Ballet Collective San Diego, a relatively new-to-the-scene collaborative and home for local movement artists. Choreographers Tylor Bradshaw, Reka Gyulai, Silken Kelly and Emily Miller's works of contemporary ballet will be performed in two performances on Saturday.

I caught the tiniest preview of some of the works on social media and these promise to be surprising, lovely and inventive pieces — including Emily Miller's "Four Seasons," which uses composer Max Richter's spin on the traditional Vivaldi music.

Details: 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16. The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, 7600 Fay Ave., La Jolla. $30-$60.

Visual art

Ryan McGinness, "Untitled," 2023, ink, charcoal, and acrylic on paper, 30 x 22 in.
Courtesy of Ryan McGinness Studios, Inc.
Ryan McGinness, "Untitled," 2023, ink, charcoal, and acrylic on paper, 30 x 22 in.

Ryan McGinness: "Drawings" opens at Quint Gallery with a coffee reception on Saturday. It's a collection of dozens of medium-sized, fragmented charcoal drawings, all created during the last three years.

There's also new work on view in the speakeasy-esque The Museum Of ____ space in the back of Quint's main gallery. Mark Quint and artist Ethan Chan have curated "Liquid Ecstasy: Dirty Dreams." It's a collection of motel soaps and motel soap-related ephemera and art, primarily from the an anonymous collector. Yes, motel soap. Items range from a shirt made from Motel 6 soap packets; used soaps collected from motels across the country (affixed like true works of art to the gallery wall); photography of vividly colored suds and more.

Details: Both exhibits open with a coffee reception from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16. Quint Gallery, 7655 Girard Ave., La Jolla. Free.

Used motel soaps are shown installed at The Museum Of____ in an undated photo.
Courtesy of Quint Gallery
Used motel soaps are shown installed at The Museum Of____ in an undated photo.
Work by Jason Sherry is shown in an undated photo.
Courtesy of Trash Lamb Gallery
Work by Jason Sherry is shown in an undated photo.

Jason Sherry: "Leisurecraft" opens at Trash Lamb Gallery on Saturday, featuring solo photographic works intricately sliced and mounted into parallax images on old tennis rackets. The already-strange photos seem to move as you walk past it, revealing something new. There's something distinctly escapist about these: like a toy viewfinder or a glimpse into an absurd dimension.

Details: Opens with a reception from 7-10 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 15. Gallery and shop hours are 12-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 12-5 p.m. Sunday. Trash Lamb Gallery, 2365 30th St., South Park. Free.

Visual art and Music

"Beyond the Elements," curated by Mario "OG" López, opens Sept. 14 at New Americans Museum as a study of San Diego's hip-hop scene through the lens of the immigrant communities at the heart of the movement. Works on display spotlight graffiti, dance crews and more.

Details: On view Sept. 14 through Dec. 31. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. New Americans Museum, 2825 Dewey Rd., Ste. 102, Liberty Station. Free.


"Dragon Mama" takes the stage at Diversionary Theatre, kicking off their new season. Playwright and performer Sara Porkalob brings this one-person production to San Diego along with director Andrew Russell. It's the second in what promises to be a "Dragon" trilogy, following "Dragon Lady," about Porkalob's grandmother in the Philippines. "Dragon Mama" is inspired by her own mother, who left and ran away to Alaska in search of a "gayer" life.

Sara Porkalob is shown on stage in "Dragon Mama" in an undated photo. <br/>
Courtesy of Gretjen Helene
Sara Porkalob is shown on stage in "Dragon Mama" in an undated photo.

From what I've seen, Porkalob's presence and performance is always powerful, multi-faceted and engrossing.

Details: On stage Sept. 14 through Oct. 8. This weekend's preview performances are 7 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday. Diversionary Theater, 4545 Park Blvd., University Heights. $20-$60.

"Dishwasher Dreams" offers another take on the "autobiographical solo show" at The Old Globe. It opens in previews this weekend. Playwright, performer, comedian and filmmaker Alaudin Ullah's show follows his parents, born in Bangladesh, as they seek the American Dream. Tabla percussionist Avirodh Sharma accompanies the production.

Details: On stage Sept. 16 through Oct. 15. This weekend's showtimes are 8 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday. The Old Globe, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park. $33-$99.

Music and Film

"The Holy Mountain" with Joe Cantrell is part of Project [BLANK]'s "Salty Series." Cantrell will perform a live electronic score to a screening of Alejandro Jodorowsky's 1973 film, "The Holy Mountain." It's considered an avant garde, surreal masterpiece.

Details: 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 15. Bread and Salt. 1955 Julian Ave., Logan Heights. $10.


Hausmann Quartet: Haydn Voyages returns to the Maritime Museum this Sunday. The local ensemble is gradually making their way through Haydn's vast collection of compositions for string quartet, pairing Haydn with more recent works as well as his own contemporaries. This month, they'll feature Ned Rorem's 1994 composition, "Quartet No. 4." Rorem, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer who died in 2022, based the work loosely on Pablo Picasso. Each of the 10 movements are named after specific Picasso paintings.

Hausmann will also perform a quartet by Ravel and by Haydn.

Details: 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 17. The Berkeley steamboat at the Maritime Museum of San Diego, 1492 N. Harbor Dr., downtown. $10-$55.

Regina Carter & Xavier Davis Duo will kick off the Athenaeum's Jazz at Scripps Research series. Acclaimed violinist (and "genius grant" recipient) Regina Carter will be accompanied by keyboardist Xavier Davis.

Musician Regina Carter is shown in an undated photo.
Courtesy of Regina Carter
Musician Regina Carter is shown in an undated photo.

Over the next six months, the Jazz at Scripps Research series will also bring Etienne Charles and Brad Mehldau — and tickets are available for individual performances or as a package.

Details: 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 17. The Auditorium at Scripps Research Institute, 10620 John J. Hopkins Dr., La Jolla.

SACRA/PROFANA's "The End is the Beginning" kicks off the vocal ensemble's 15th season. Among the works the group will perform is Herbert Howells' "Requiem," a 1932 work that wasn't uncovered until its debut performance in 1980.

Details: 3 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 17. First Presbyterian Church. 320 Date St., downtown. Free.

For more arts events, or to submit your own, visit the KPBS/Arts Calendar here. And be sure to sign up for my weekly KPBS/Arts newsletter here.

Julia Dixon Evans writes the KPBS Arts newsletter, produces and edits the KPBS/Arts Calendar and works with the KPBS team to cover San Diego's diverse arts scene. Previously, Julia wrote the weekly Culture Report for Voice of San Diego and has reported on arts, culture, books, music, television, dining, the outdoors and more for The A.V. Club, Literary Hub and San Diego CityBeat. She studied literature at UCSD (where she was an oboist in the La Jolla Symphony), and is a published novelist and short fiction writer. She is the founder of Last Exit, a local reading series and literary journal, and she won the 2019 National Magazine Award for Fiction. Julia lives with her family in North Park and loves trail running, vegan tacos and live music.
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