Mojalet Dance Collective revives its upbeat tribute to dance from the 1920s to ‘60s: ‘Blast from the Past’

Mojalet Dance Collective dancers Angelica Bell and Alyssa Kinnear.
Mojalet Dance Collective dancers Angelica Bell and Alyssa Kinnear. The company presents “A Blast From The Past: A Nostalgic Historical Journey” Jan. 21-29.
(Courtesy of Christine Sionne)

The way we dance and move reflects who we are and where we are in history.

That’s one of the reasons why choreographer Faith Jensen-Ismay thought to bring back this weekend’s “Blast From The Past: A Nostalgic Historical Journey.”

Performed by Mojalet Dance Collective and last presented to appreciative audiences in 2013, the show revisits popular dances from the 1920s through the 1960s. It’s narrated by two vocalists-emcees, Robby Johnson and Cindy Frerking, and enhanced with video and music.

“The goal for me was to give honor to prior artists that have helped to bring us on this journey and to give homage to why they became significant,” said Jensen-Ismay, Mojalet’s artistic director.

It’s more of a dance theatrical production than your typical modern dance concert. We don’t have much of that. You have theater or dance, but there is not a whole lot of dance theater in our community. There’s a narrative or a story and it crosses genres, not strictly dance but text and live vocals,” she said.

The accompaniment to “Blast from the Past” ranges from songs such as “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here,” a unifying anthem among World War I soldiers, to Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” and the audience is invited to join in with repeating the lyric, “so good, so good, so good.”

There’s a dance number to music popularized by Elvis Presley and Jensen-Ismay will perform in a duet to a Johnny Cash medley that includes “Ring of Fire” and “I Walk the Line.”

She said that she especially enjoys songs from the 1950s and ‘60s, music that’s the music her parents listened to.

“My mom and dad were a young couple, really poor, and we were living in the boonies,” Jensen-Ismay said. “We didn’t do extracurricular activities like youth theater or formal dance classes. I loved my little 45s and that was a big source of entertainment. One of my friends had a record player. My dad loved 1950s music, so I was particularly fond of Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly.”

Jensen-Ismay examined the history behind the evolution of dance, from the Charleston and the Cakewalk to the Jive and the Pony.

“I was drawn to this project because of storytelling,” she said. “I did a lot of research about what was happening socially and politically and how dance and music were a staple. Even if you didn’t have money, you had a radio. You could listen to music. It was a fun project to create.”

Musical and dance influences by White and Black artists both unified and alienated social groups and a “Blast from the Past” exemplifies that with dance that celebrates freedom of expression.

“The movement was provocative and there was so much aggression and fear that the music at the time might ruin teenagers — that rock and roll was unhealthy for them,” Jensen-Ismay said. “I never realized growing up that the 1950s marked the emergence of the White middle class. I was looking at it from a different lens than learning about it in school. It dawned on me that as a society, kids were going to school longer. They weren’t working in factories at age 13 and 14. Financially, people were doing better after the Depression and the war and people had idle time.”

Dance movement through the years gave people a release and helped them to evolve. It was like that for Jensen-Ismay, too.

“I took me a long time to realize the importance of dance in my life,” Jensen-Ismay said. “It’s much more than asking if I am a beautiful dancer or a great technician. Now it’s about what dance speaks to my soul and how it impacts me in my daily life.”

Mojalet Dance Collective: ‘A Blast from the Past: A Nostalgic Historical Journey’

When: 7 p.m. Saturday. 2 p.m. Sunday. 4:30 and 7 p.m. Jan. 28. 2 p.m. Jan. 29

Where: The Vine Arts Village, Oaks North Plaza, 12540 Oaks North Drive, Suite H, Rancho Bernardo

Tickets: $16-$26 (A charcuterie and drink package for an additional $25 offers vegan, gluten-free and non-alcoholic options)

Phone: (858) 243-1402


Luttrell is a freelance writer.