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The Foundry, Project Thrust, burns-work, and Sharp & Fine are companies in-residence at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. Their respective artistic directors Alex Ketley, Malinda LaVelle, and Christian Burns are SFCD faculty members while Megan and Shannon Kurashige are SFCD alumnae.
Since its inception in 1998, The Foundry has created an array of innovative performance and video pieces that have received wide-spread acclaim. The work of The Foundry is informed by an extensive background in classical and contemporary ballet combined with deep interest in the fine arts, improvisation and the collaborative process.
The Foundry was created by Alex Ketley and Christian Burns—friends since their time together at the School of American Ballet more than twenty years ago—as a vehicle through which to pursue their common artistic interests. After five years partnering as co-artistic directors, Alex took over the helm solo in 2003 when Christian decided to pursue his artistic wanderlust—touring the world to perform with various improvisation pioneers and returning to San Francisco from time to time to collaborate in Foundry projects.
Projects of The Foundry have been funded over the years by grants from such organizations as the Irvine Foundation, Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, Zellerbach Family Fund, Creative Work Fund, Cash Grant, National Endowment for the Arts, Wattis Foundation Choo-San Goh Foundation, Princess Grace Foundation, Ucross Foundation, Hewlett Foundation and the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, among others, as well as by individual supporters.
In addition to his current roles as artistic director of The Foundry and resident choreographer at SFCD, Alex is an independent choreographer who has been commissioned to develop new works for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Ballet Leipzig, Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, The Juilliard School, BodyTRAFFIC, Ballet Met, DanceWorks Chicago, Stanford University, AXIS Dance Company, and Ballet Nouveau Colorado, among others. His choreography has been recognized by awards from the Hubbard Street 2 Choreographic Competition (2001), the International Choreographic Competition of the Festival des Arts de Saint Saveur (2004), the National Choo-San Goh Award (2005), the inaugural Princess Grace Award for Choreography (2005), the Ballet Nouveau Colorado National Choreographic Comptetition (2008), two CHIME Fellowships (2007 & 2008), two Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreographic Residencies (2007 & 2009), an Isadora Duncan award (2009), a Gerbode Hewlett Choreographer Commissioning Award (2009), and the National Eben Demarest Award (2011). Before The Foundry, Alex danced with San Francisco Ballet (1994-1998), performing a wide range of classical and contemporary repertory which included the work of William Forsythe, James Kudelka and George Balanchine, among others, in San Francisco and on tour throughout the world.
As of this writing, ten SFCD alumnae have collaborated in developing and performing new works with The Foundry.
Selected Press Quotes:
- “The Foundry, a multimedia dance company, has made some seriously beautiful dances” – San Francisco Bay Guardian, 2000
- “The Foundry takes Bay Area dance to the next stage” – San Francisco Chronicle, 2002
- “The Foundry is at the vanguard of American dance” – San Francisco Chronicle, 2003
- “[The Foundry’s] sold out … opening night in the Forum of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts brought great news for modern dance” – San Francisco Chronicle, 2003
- “emotionally cool mix of skewed classicism, postmodern fragmentation, and stunning video projections” – San Francisco Chronicle, 2006
- “One of the most riveting Bay Area dances of 2008” – Voice of Dance, 2008
- “Ketley’s mesmerizing Silt expressed more about the human condition than most playwrights achieve with two hours of text” – Broad Street Review, 2009
- “When words fail, a turn of a cheek or small shift in stance can signify a world of meaning. Choreographer, and director … Alex Ketley is hyperconscious of the subtly secrets our bodies both hide and reveal” – Examiner.com, 2010
Project Thrust was founded by Malinda LaVelle in 2010 with the stated mission to “expose what makes us move by reveling within the imagination, recognizing the conflicts between our thoughts and our physicality, understanding the body’s capacity for courage as well as its incompetence and pain, and unearthing the psychological domain that echoes while developing movement.”
The company has performed its highly distinctive brand of dance theater as part of the Women on the Way Festival and SFCD’s Summer Dance Series at Z Space Theater, as well as at Ben Levy’s Salon and The Garage (through its Resident Artist Workshop), and has received funding from The Zellerbach Family Foundation. In 2011 Project Thrust was enlisted by Cirque du Soleil to join cast-members in performing the closing segment of dance from the production Totem at the San Francisco Centre to promote its San Francisco engagement.
While studying towards a BFA in Dance at the University of Arizona, Malinda attended SFCD’s Summer Intensive Program over several consecutive years, where she displayed an abundance of ingenuity and talent in both her dancing and creating dances as part of SFCD’s Choreographic Residency. Upon her graduation from U of A (Summa Cum Laude) in 2009, she was invited to become Artist-in-Residence at SFCD, choreographing regularly on its students, and has since been commissioned to choreograph on dance students at the University of San Francisco as well. Still dancing herself, Malinda has performed with Alex Ketley’s The Foundry, Alyce Finwall Dance Theater, and Manuelito Biag’s Shift>>>Physical Theater.
As of this writing, all nine dancers who have collaborated in developing and performing new works with Project Thrust have been SFCD alumnae.
- “... one of the most satisfying moments in performance that I’ve experienced in a long time. ... It's no easy task to create a hybrid of vocalization, movement, and social commentary. Although Lavelle is somewhat of a newcomer, it's clear that she already has a strong choreographic voice and means of expressing it.” – Daria Kaufman, The San Francisco Examiner, 2010
Choreographer/improvisation-artist Christian Burns founded burns-work in 2010 as a vehicle through which to develop and present his current choreographic investigations (he previously co-founded The Foundry in 1998 and Parsons Hall Project in 2008). The company’s recent work has been presented in 2011 as part of the Westwave Festival at ODC Theater and SFCD’s Summer Dance Series at Z Space Theater.
Christian has been awarded a CHIME (Choreographers in Mentorship Exchange) grant by the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company (2010), a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship for Choreography (2008), the National Choo-San Goh Award for Choreography (2004), the Paula Citron Award for Choreography for Camera from the Moving Pictures Festival in Toronto (2001), a McKnight Artist Fellowship (1997). He was also an artist-in-residence at the Experimental Television Center in New York.
A graduate of the School of American Ballet, Christian has performed with The Forsythe Company (as guest artist), Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet and James Sewell Ballet (as company member), and with reknowned improvisers Kirstie Simson, Katie Duck, Michael Schumacher, Eva Karczag, and Chris Aiken among many others.
As of this writing, five SFCD alumnae have collaborated in developing and performing new work with Christian’s company.
SHARP & FINE
Sharp & Fine was founded in 2011 by sisters Megan and Shannon Kurashige. The company's first piece, A Thousand Natural Shocks, premiered at Z Space theater in July of 2012 as part of the SFCD Summer Dance Series. An hour-long work of dance and spoken text created over the course of a year in collaboration with writer Kat Howard and the dancers of Sharp & Fine, A Thousand Natural Shocks explored themes of life and death and the stories we are and tell in between.
Sharp & Fine seeks to create works of dance art that welcome everyone and require no program notes for explanation and to offer audiences an experience—live and volatile—in the theater in which they will be gloriously, luxuriously not-bored.
Megan studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance under the direction of Summer Lee Rhatigan. She currently dances in San Francisco with Liss Fain Dance. She has previously worked with choreographers Alex Ketley (The Foundry) and Christian Burns (burns-work), and performed with Ballet Pacifica and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal. Also a writer, her fiction and poetry have appeared in anthologies and magazines.
Shannon graduated from UC Irvine with a BFA in Dance Performance. She also received extensive training at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance under the tutelage of Summer Lee Rhatigan and currently performs with Liss Fain Dance. She has previously performed the work of William Forsythe, Alex Ketley, Christian Burns, Donald McKayle, and Ohad Naharin. Shannon is a visual artist and designer as well.
As of this writing, all six dancers who have collaborated in developing and performing new work with Sharp & Fine have been SFCD alumnae.
- "A primal, animalistic sensibility to 'A Thousand Natural Shocks' gives the work a dangerous, edgy and off-kilter tilt… Yet amid the violent athleticism, the generous, intelligent dancers manage to give each tiny quiver and shiver of movement its own sublime moment… astonishingly mature work by emerging artists, diverse yet cohesive, witty and whimsical." – Lauren Gallagher, The San Francisco Examiner, 2012