Upcoming performance at Canyon Crest Academy in Carmel Valley blends drumming, dance


By Joe Tash

Those who attend a drum and dance performance at Canyon Crest Academy on Friday, Oct. 3, will experience a fusion of two art forms that local audiences rarely, if ever, get to see.

“It’s completely unique. I’ve been performing and working in San Diego for 25 years, and I’ve never see anything like this,” said Faith Jensen-Ismay, artistic director of the Mojalet Dance Collective.

“It’s an explosion of the arts. You get it all. It really magnifies the production, makes it bigger than life,” said Del Mar resident Alyssa Kinnear, who has been dancing with Mojalet for two-and-a-half years.

The performance, which begins at 7:30 p.m., combines the drumming and percussion talents of Rhythm Talk, a trio from Olten, Switzerland, with the dancers of Mojalet, who live in North County. Jensen-Ismay’s dance collective has been performing with the Swiss group for about 10 years, and the 2014 tour marks the trio’s third visit to the United States.

Along with the show at Canyon Crest, additional performances are scheduled at the Lyceum Theater in downtown San Diego. The dancers and drummers will also put on workshops at San Diego State University and local high schools.

“It’s a great honor,” said drummer Mattias Baumann.

“For us it’s inspiring,” said percussionist and composer Noby Lehmann.

Rhythm Talk arose from a drum school in Olten, and plays throughout Europe. They celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2010. The group’s influences include jazz, rock, funk, samba, Indian and African rhythms.

On a recent evening, the dancers and musicians gathered at Jensen-Ismay’s Poway home, where an upstairs room has been converted to a dance studio, to rehearse for their upcoming shows. Even with the windows closed, Jensen-Ismay was concerned the thumping, crashing drums would disturb her neighbors.

As Jensen-Ismay provided direction and coaching, the dancers practiced their routines, sometimes using large sail-shaped panels as props.

The show that the two groups will perform on Oct. 3 is called “Vital Emotions,” and includes a mix of different dance styles set to original musical compositions.

“It’s a collaboration of live music and dance, visual, athletic, passionate, and a little bit edgy,” said Jensen-Ismay.

“Percussion is an understatement. There are so many beautiful instruments from around the world with so many different sounds,” she said.

Kinnear, who works as a physical therapist, attends several dance classes and rehearsals each week. “This is my night gig,” she said of her work with Mojalet.

She first met Rhythym Talk two years ago, during a previous joint performance.

“I’m super excited to have them back. As a dancer, live music is fantastic,” she said.

Dancers can actually feel the vibration of the drums through the floor boards as they perform, which intensifies the experience and unifies the efforts of the musicians and dancers, Kinnear said.

Due to a visa glitch, one member of the percussion group, Christopher Blattner, was held up in Switzerland. Lehmann said they hope their fellow band member can obtain his visa and make it to San Diego in time for next week’s shows. In the meantime, Baumann, a former student from the drum school, will fill in on drums.

Tickets for the Oct. 3 performance at Canyon Crest Academy are $20 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. They can be purchased at the dance group’s web site, mojalet.com, or by calling 858-243-1402.

Samples of Rhythm Talk’s music can be found at the group’s web site, rhythmtalk.ch.