On June 2nd at 8 PM, the Nannette Brodie Dance Theatre will celebrate its 30th Anniversary with a concert entitled PASSION & GRACE at the CSU, Long Beach Department of Dance’s Martha B. Knoebel Dance Theater. The concert will feature the premiere of Every Soldier Has a Story and other repertoire works. Founded in 1986 by Artistic Director Nannette Brodie, the company is one of the few in the Los Angeles area that maintains an ongoing group of dancers, rather than picking up dancers on a project only basis. Former company members will be traveling from a multitude of cities to attend the concert and the after party.

For over an hour, Brodie and I chatted while seated on the lovely back patio of her Long Beach home, with birds singing, butterflies fluttering around our heads and an occasional hummingbird whizzing past in pursuit of nectar. They were drawn to her beautiful rose bushes, flowers and fruit trees. Brodie and I have been friends and colleagues since the late 1970s and it was a wonderful waltz down memory lane as well as an informative interview.

Nannette Brodie – Photo: Steve Shea.

Brodie is a native of southern California, born in Hollywood and raised in San Gabriel, and descended from a show business family. Her grandfather was the comptroller for Universal Studios and the person who escorted the silent movie star, Mary Pickford from New York to Hollywood on the train. Her father was an Adagio Dancer in Kansas, but due to life’s circumstances, had to give it up. Brodie began dancing at age 8 after being inspired by local Flamenco dancers at the San Gabriel Mission. She began with ballet classes at a recreational facility and folk dancing lessons in the home of a local teacher. At Pasadena City College she studied modern dance with the sister of Joan Woodbury, co-founder of Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company in Utah, and Martha Graham dance technique from a former member of the Graham company. Brodie said that during her teens she went from the dance studio to the art studio where she studied painting, to the printer’s studio for graphic arts.

The decision to become a dancer was made at age 19 when, at a friend’s suggestion, Brodie took a workshop with dancer/choreographer Murray Louis. Louis put her in his advanced class because he saw her choreographic talents. After receiving her Masters Degree in Dance at CSU, Los Angeles, Brodie moved to New York where she continued her studies with Louis and Alwin Nikolais at their studio in New York City’s Garment District.

After deciding to return to California, Brodie danced for seven or eight years with the Los Angeles based The Moving Company, headed by Artistic Director Pat Finot. Brodie laughed and said that they used to get calls from people wanting furniture moved and they would have to explain that they were a dance company, not a moving company. The company worked collaboratively, and Brodie created several new works for The Moving Company while she was a member.

Nannette Brodie – Photo: Steve Shea.

Brodie then taught on the dance faculties of CSU, Chico and CSU, Long Beach, Loyola Marymount University and Long Beach City College. She became the director of the dance program at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, California. in 1986 and formed her own company in 1988. I asked Brodie if teaching there led to the formation of the Nannette Brodie Dance Theatre.

“In a way it did, yes.” She said. “You know, there’s always that little handful of really good students and I thought that maybe I could do something more with them.” It was not until after their first concert, however, that she said to the dancers that she believed that they were now a company.

The Nannette Brodie Dance Theatre has toured locally and nationally, and since being asked in 1997 to perform on a dance festival in Mexico City, internationally. The international touring has extended to Finland, Czech Republic and France. For 30 years Brodie has managed to sustain an ongoing group of dance artists. She believes that every dance company is like a small artist colony. They train together and rehearse together. “I’m old school in that way” Brodie said. One dancer, Erica Villalpando, has been with the company for 20 years. Two other dancers, Jennie Sustaita and Megan Mclean have performed with the company since 2001.

Stephanie Maxim – Nannette Brodie Dance Theatre – Photo: Steve Shea.

Brodie retired from Golden West College in 2017 after 35 years, but continues to teach her company, disabled veterans, and teenage children of military families at the Villages at Cabrillo, 26 acres of the former Cabrillo/Savannah Naval housing in Long Beach. This work led her to interview male and female veterans and to create her new work Every Soldier Has a Story that will premiere in the 30th Anniversary Concert. This dance is the culmination of a two-year project for the company working with veterans at the VA hospital, the American legend and other military sites. Brodie is very proud of this work and excited to see it performed.

For this concert Brodie has brought back one of her earliest works, Holiday, a comedic duet originally co-created and performed by her and dance artist Danny Shapiro. It has been performed to a few different music scores, the last one composed by Eric Ruskin, former Music Director, musician and faculty member of the Department of Dance at CSU, Long Beach. Also, on the program is a men’s trio entitled Seen and Unseen, a work called Seeing Through and one that was performed on the company’s 25th Anniversary celebration entitled Let Them Eat Cake with Baroque styled costumes and music by Takénobu. Other works on the program will include Excerpt from Night Blooms, Strength in Sorrow, Seizing the Light, and Vientos de Andalucia.

Nannette Brodie received the Else Loudon Solo Award for her choreography at the Palm Desert “Dancing Under the Stars” Festival in 2002, the “Daffy” Award from Dance in the Desert Festival in 2007, as well as recognition for Outstanding Woman in Arts and Culture for Long Beach and Distinguished Arts Educator for Huntington Beach, CA.

Stephanie Maxim, Jennie Sustaita – Nannette Brodie Dance Theatre – Photo: Steven Shea.

The Nannette Brodie Dance Theatre’s 30th Anniversary Concert performs for one night only on Saturday, June 2 at the Martha B. Knoebel Dance Theater located at 6200 Atherton Street, on the campus of California State University, Long Beach. The theater is located near the blue pyramid on Atherton Street between Bellflower Blvd. and Palo Verde Avenue. Parking is in the same lot as the Richard and Karen Carpenter Center of the Performing Arts.

The concert is at 8 PM. Ticket prices range between $25 General, $15 for Military/Veteran and $40 for VIP (Includes Evening Reception- Meet and Greet from 6:30- 7:30 and performance ticket). Tickets can also be purchased on performance night at the Martha B. Knoebel Dance Theater box office. For further information, the Nannette Brodie Dance Theatre business office telephone is (562) 598-7182.  Box Office prefers cash but can take check or credit cards.

To purchase tickets in advance, click here.

For more information on the Nannette Brodie Dance Theatre, click here.

Feature Photo: Nannette Brodie Dance Theatre at Temecula Theater – Photo: Shawna Sarnowski Photography