Summer Dance Sessions is not just a dance intensive, but rather a gathering of close friends with history dating back decades that has evolved into a loving family. From its start to the present, "SDS", as it's lovingly called, has gone under different titles and seen some of its attendees turn into faculty, but its intention of establishing a sanctuary to preserve, explore and share the art of dance has never floundered.
Chris Jacobsen, co-founder of The Dance Sessions, grew up in San Francisco, California dancing alongside faculty members Brooke Pierotti and Monique Smith at the San Francisco School of the Arts. The friendship that the three dancers shared became sibling-like and the trio’s unending support toward one another motivated them to take chances and move forward with their dance careers in inspiring ways. In 1999, Chris created The Dance Company of San Francisco, heavily supported by his ‘sisters,’ Brooke and Monique.
As time passed, Chris, Brooke, and Monique all entered the dance competition circuit where networking began and new friendships blossomed. Brooke met Sonya Tayeh, before her days choreographing for FOX’s So You Think You Can Dance, and introduced her to Chris. While a friendship was instant, there also lingered a spark for partnership and soon after their initial meeting, Sonya moved out to San Francisco to work closely with Chris’ company. During the early 2000’s, the company thrived and included a wide variety of phenomenal dancers, including Melody Lacayanga (now a Dance Sessions faculty member).
In 2004, Chris and Sonya took a watershed step and opened up The Dance Company of San Francisco’s summer program to outside quests thus creating the very first of The Dance Sessions. These guests were welcomed with open arms and have since become instrumental in The Dance Sessions’ growth as an event and as an experience. Dancer Stephanie Ruch, from Kansas City, was of this first wave and immediately found solace amidst her Sessions contemporaries. Her mentoring from Chris Jacobsen led to her becoming his assistant and ultimately led to her to be a Dance Sessions councilor and faculty member, along with her sister, Andi Abernathy.
In the years since its inception, several dancers have been adopted into the family. Liz Schmidt of Detroit, Jenn Freeman of New York City, Rachael Hopkins of Atlanta. Caroline Lewis-Jones of South Carolina, and, most recently, Adam McGaw of Detroit have all added new verve and voice to the Sessions family. Just as no member in any family should go unloved, each appendage of The Dance Sessions body is instrumental to its improvement and success, including Mikeal Knight, who in 2009 became managing partner of The Dance Sessions.
As the driven dancers that attended The Dance Sessions continued to mature, the company began to make further and further rounds throughout the United States and beyond. Event sites expanded to Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, San Jose, Nashville, and Toronto, each progressive year widening their embrasive focus. In 2012, The Dance Sessions held their first “sleep-away” summer intensive – Summer Dance Sessions – in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts. The week-long event brought the staff and students to an exclusive environment away from the normality of suburban routine and the consistent scuttle of urbanity; surrounded by nature, nutrition, and each other, the dancers would endure ten hour-long days of dancing before bunking up with one another in a dormitory setting.
The stirring and exhilarating experience of "SDS" has changed the lives of many attendees allowing them to view their beloved art form with a cleansed vigor and determined passion. Summer Dance Sessions continues to grow and welcome new members to its family with an unwavering focus on its original intention of creative honesty.