Cindy Heen Launches a New Dance Festival

After founding Emergence Dance Company last year, Cindy Heen is staging an Emergence Dance Festival this month at the Sawtooth.


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Photo courtesy Cindy Heen

We don’t lack music, theater, dance, outdoor and indoor festivals. But sometimes it’s OK to get another one. At least that’s what dancer, choreographer, musical theater artist Cindy Heen thought when she contemplated the decision.

Dance has been part of Heen’s life since she was 2. Yet it was only when she moved to Oakland for her master’s degree at Mills College that she realized just how stylistically and culturally rich dance in the Bay Area — second in size only to New York — is. As a dancer, choreographer, and teacher, she also observed that performance opportunities for young artists just starting out were difficult, primarily for financial reasons.

After she started to teach and began to learn more about the area, she also began to wonder where she herself belonged “among all these wonderful artists.” So last year she founded her own Emergence Dance Company. But for somebody who believes in “dance and movement as a positive force through the peaks and valleys of the life cycles,” she knew that she needed to do more.

So this year she founded the Emergence Dance Festival to take place at the Sawtooth Building, one of Berkeley’s oldest art-supporting location that started out as an aluminum manufacturing plant, then was the home for Sealy mattresses, and since 1972 has been home to artists and crafts people.

Heen wanted begin slowly and also have the door wide open for dancers of any stylistic orientation. To her amazement, “people started to apply from all over.”

Emergence Dance Festival, 8 p.m., Sat., Aug. 24, Western Sky Studio, 2525 Eighth Street, #13A, Berkeley, $15, Eventbrite.com.

This article originally appeared in our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

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