Top Choreographers Win Prize Money and Prestige

Being selected to perform in the Young Choreographers Showcase is an honor in itself. Hearing the names of winners is a big cause for excitement.  Just check out the joyful snapshot of Jessica Rabanzo-Flores who won the first place prize of $3,000 for her supercharged dance “Beyond Our control.”

Rabanzo-Flores was one of 11 contestants (nine individual choreographers and two two-person teams) in the showcase for 2013. A panel of six judges and an exuberant crowd inside the Saville Theatre at City College Sunday night was wowed by the gripping energy in her hip-hop inspired work set to “Illusion of Choice” by Gramatik. She sparkled on stage and drew impressive performances from dancers Mercedes Forster, Nicole Herz, Dylan Hoffinger, and Bruce Walker, all decked in shiny black leggings.

An overjoyed Jessica Rabanzo-Flores (center in black) poses after winning first prize in the Young Choreographers Showcase. Photo: Kris Eitland

An overjoyed Jessica Rabanzo-Flores (center) poses after winning first prize in the Young Choreographers Showcase. Photo: Kris Eitland

A native San Diegan, Rabanzo-Flores trained with Eveoke Dance Theatre and graduated with degrees in sociology and dance from UC Irvine. She’s worked with lots of choreographers, dances with Eveoke, and teaches locally.  Now she has the additional validation of taking home the top prize for sizzling choreography.

The third annual showcase presented by San Diego Dance Theater was held at Saville Theatre on the City College campus Sunday. The panel of six judges and exuberant audience members, from two sold-out shows (at 4 and 7 pm), gave prizes to Rabanzo-Flores and three more deserving choreographers.

Tamara Saari was awarded the second place prize of $1,000 for her poignant work “________ed by you.” Her dance explored loss, and a chilling scream and backward falls were spine tingling. Dancers included: Dania Barragan, Nikki Dunnan, Jordan Jones, Mirian Lomeli, Molly Puryear, and Kelsey Shewbridge.

Zaquia Mahler Salinas and Jamie Nixon tied for the third place prize, each winning $500 for their dances.

Salinas won with “Proprioceptive Rhythm.” Dancers:  Salinas, Marty Dorado, Caitlin Franco, Veronica Jaszkowiak, and Ramon Montes.

Nixon’s winning dance was “Hemisphere,” with dancers: Angel Acuna, Katie Amarillas, Amylin Canaria, Caitlin Franco, Andrew Holmes, Jessica Robertson, and Stephanie Torres.

The value of the competition is farreaching. While $3,000, $1,000, or $500 means a lot to a young dance artist, the award also helps them apply for jobs, grants, fellowships, and pay dancers. And because the event invites dance artists from many genres to work together, audiences experience and discover new artists and styles.

To be considered for the competition, San Diego choreographers between the ages of 18 and 35 submitted videos of their work. Out of more than two dozen applicants, a committee chose 11 (9 individuals and two pairs).

Along with the winners, choreographers included: Danny Dwaine Wells, Trixi Agiao and Arthur Huang, Jessica Curiel, Angel Waali-Villalobos, Lavina Rich, Edrian Pangilinan and Marygian Rebullar, and Blythe Barton.

First place winners from past seasons include Gina Bolles Sorensen and her husband Kyle Sorensen, and Anthony Rodriguez.

Judges for this year’s competition included: Betzie Roe, Terry Wilson, Javier Velasco, Michael Mizerany, Sandra Foster-King, and yours truly, Kris Eitland. Eunice Contreras was invited to be a judge, but had a protracted and unfortunate delay at the border, so I was asked to fill in.  Of course I was there because the tension and excitment of seeing new artists and premieres is not to be missed.



  1. Marylou on February 27, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Great Story Kris. Thanks for supporting and promoting San Diego’s dance community.

  2. Kris on February 28, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Prize money came from an anonymous donor. Wish it could happen more often.

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