Laguna Beach Music Festival Puts On Some Toe Shoes

Joyce Yang is the artistic director of the 17th annual Laguna Beach Music Festival. (Photo courtesy of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County)

Usually, the Laguna Beach Music Festival is exactly what its name implies: a celebration of quality classic music. Not this year.

The 2019 festival, which takes place Feb. 6-10 at various Laguna venues, spills well outside classical music’s traditional boundaries to include dance as well – a fitting change for a town with a rich cultural life and legacy that hosts the well-regarded Laguna Dance Festival every autumn.

The Laguna Beach Music Festival gets a new artistic director each year. This year it’s Joyce Yang, a Korean-born pianist who came to international attention in 2005 when she won the silver medal at the 12th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition at the age of 19. As with all artistic directors, she helps curate the festival as well as appearing in performances.

As usual, this year’s festival will interact with the community in many ways: meet-the-artist events, salons, open rehearsals, discussions, and concerts in the schools during festival week.

But the interdisciplinary feel to this year’s festival is something new. The opening-night concert will be devoted to dance.

Yang and cellist Efe Baltacigil will open the evening by performing dance-inspired musical works that share rhythmic, dreamlike qualities. The second half features Aspen Santa Fe Ballet performing “Dream Play,” a 2017 work by Brazilian-Swedish choreographer Fernando Melo.

Set to music by Chopin and French minimalist composer Erik Satie, “Dream Play” is described as a surreal exploration of perspectives. Dancers conjure mesmerizing scenes of flight without ever leaving the floor. The choreography is projected live from an overhead camera onto a large screen, creating an illusion of gravity-defying movements and patterns that challenge the bounds of reality.

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Jodie Gates, founder and artistic director of Laguna Dance Festival, helped bring the collaboration to fruition. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet has performed in the past at her annual early-fall festival.

“I was pleased that we and the Philharmonic Society found a way to bring dance to this music festival,” Gates said. “(The Laguna Dance Festival) has enjoyed nearly 15 years of success by presenting world-class dance with an outstanding collaborative spirit. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet was the very first dance company we presented in Laguna Beach in 2005. This performance embodies our desire for dance, music and the visual arts to come together, while celebrating the importance of multidisciplinary performance.”

Tommy Phillips, the Philharmonic Society’s new president and artistic director, sees this year’s festival as a harbinger of things to come. He thinks that collaboration among arts groups makes sense for several reasons.

“We want to elevate our relationship with the community and with diverse audiences,” Phillips said. “As we continue to push the envelope with our programming and relationship-building on and off the stage, we are also building a sense of excitement in our community for all the possibilities that local arts groups can offer.”

More information:

Philharmonic Society of Orange County | (949) 553-2422 | PhilharmonicSociety.org

Laguna Playhouse | (949) 497-2787 | LagunaPlayhouse.com

● Laguna Beach Music Festival Highlights 

Festival Prelude, Wednesday, February 6, 2019, 6 p.m., Laguna Art Museum

The 2019 Laguna Beach Music Festival kicks off with the Festival Prelude, an intimate preview of the 2019 Festival as Festival Director Joyce Yang and friends give a special performance and Yang shares her vision in creating the Festival program. RSVP to Leah Heit at 949-553-2422, ext. 234, Leah@PhilharmonicSociety.org

Opening Night: Music Meets Dance, Friday, February 8, 2019, 8 p.m., Laguna Playhouse

Festival Artistic Director Joyce Yang and cellist Efe Baltacigil creating a dreamlike rhythmical world on stage with dance-inspired musical works. The second half features Aspen Santa Fe Ballet performing “Dream Play,” a work by Brazilian-Swedish choreographer Fernando Melo.

It Takes Two to Tango, Saturday, February 9, 2019, 8 p.m., Laguna Playhouse

Grammy-winning violinist Augustin Hadelich and Festival artistic airector and pianist Joyce Yang showcase dance inspired pieces from different cultures. A duo recital built around André Previn’s virtuosic three-part piece, “Tango, Song, and Dance.”

Romantic Masterworks, Sunday, February 10, 2019, 3 p.m., Laguna Playhouse

The 2019 festival culminates in a passionate musical exploration of romance-themed masterworks. In this pre-Valentine’s Day concert, artistic director Joyce Yang is joined by friends and special guests.


Paul Hodgins is the senior editor of Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. He can be reached at phodgins@voiceofoc.org.