California Literary Review

Profile of Toba Singer


Toba Singer, author of “First Position: a Century of Ballet Artists” (Praeger 2007), was Senior Program Director of the Art and Music Center of the San Francisco Public Library and its dance selector until her retirement in 2010. Raised in The Bronx, she graduated from New York City’s School of Performing Arts with a major in Drama, the University of Massachusetts with a BA in History; and the University of Maryland with an MLS. Since high school, Singer has been actively engaged in a broad range of pro-labor, social, and political campaigns. She has lived, worked, organized and written in Baltimore, Boston, The Bronx, Cambridge, Charleston, West Virginia, Jersey City, Richmond, Virginia, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., working in steel mills, chemical refineries, garment shops and as an airlines worker; also editing, teaching and as an office worker. Singer has contributed articles to the “Charleston Gazette,” “San Francisco Chronicle,” “Dance Magazine,” “Dance Europe,” “City Paper,” “Provincetown Advocate,” “Voice of Dance,”, “InDance,” and “Dance Source Houston.”

Singer returned to the studio to study ballet after a 25-year absence, and in 2001, was invited to become a founding member of the board of Robert Moses’ KIN dance company. Singer studied ballet with Svetlana Afanasieva, Nina Anderson, Perry Brunson, Richard Gibson, Zory Karah, Celine Keller, Charles McGraw, Francoise Martinet, Augusta Moore, E. Virginia Williams, and Kahz Zmuda; and Modern Dance with Cora Cahan, Jane Dudley, Nancy Lang, Donald McKayle, Gertrude Shurr, and Zenaide Trigg. Her son James Gotesky dances with Houston Ballet. Singer lives in Oakland, California, with her husband Jim Gotesky.

Articles written for the California Literary Review:

  • An Interview with San Francisco Ballet Choreographer Myles Thatcher
    Posted on 10 Aug 2012 in Blog-Dance, Dance

    It’s like a puzzle that needs to be cracked. It may seem to me that the steps are predetermined, but really, the music is dictating what should be there.

  • Spines, Wines and Dragonflies: Groovin’ in Stern Grove with the San Francisco Ballet
    Posted on 01 Aug 2012 in Dance, Performing Arts

    For me, Frances Chung and Daniel Deivison, as the couple in orange, delivered the most virtuosic performance, with lifts and counterpoint that in their athleticism seemed to channel something Olympic. The fanning of dancers on the floor, facing the audience like human footlights, was a touch of class that transported me from Grove to groove, as a blue dragonfly made a spectacular landing a leaf or two stage left of center.

  • Post:Ballet — Dreams, Seams, and Salience
    Posted on 24 Jul 2012 in Blog-Dance, Dance

    What does Post:Ballet mean in terms of classical ballet? Is it a rejection of the classical vocabulary, an integration of classical with neo-classical and contemporary styles, or a step beyond what has gone before?

  • Body In-Sight: Action Drawings from the Dance Studio at the Museum of Performance and Design, San Francisco
    Posted on 23 Jul 2012 in Blog-Dance, Dance

    Aided by mirrors installed in their jewel box set, the gallery audience watched as they performed barre exercises, first dipping their feet in charcoal powder, so that the trajectory of their leg movements would be registered on the paper.

  • Dance USA’s 30th Anniversary Conference
    Posted on 09 Jul 2012 in Blog-Dance, Dance

    After having been dragged into an undertow where only conference-ese is spoken, two performance programs featuring San Francisco Bay Area dance companies, made for a thrilling rescue into a harbor of hope.

  • Wepa! It’s Aqua Zumba!
    Posted on 25 Jun 2012 in Blog-Dance, Dance

    “The way I see it,” says Solano, “is that the endorphins kick in and make you feel happy, love dancing, and you want to share it. Your mental ability is improved, and it helps the memory, calms you, and whatever anxieties you have accumulated can be turned around.”

  • Bay Area Dancers Perform in a Benefit for Cancer Prevention
    Posted on 18 Jun 2012 in Blog-Dance, Dance

    On Wednesday, June 6, thirty-three dancers from or associated with twelve San Francisco Bay Area dance companies, came together to dance for a packed audience at San Francisco’s Herbst Theater. Each piece shown represented the best of that company or dancer’s repertoire, and it was a rare opportunity for the dancers to share it not only with an audience, but with colleagues in the dance world.

  • Ben Vereen Opens Up About Fame, Addiction and Love
    Posted on 15 Jun 2012 in Blog-Theater, Dance, Music, Theatre

    I love my public, and if I’m walking down the street and someone wants to take a picture with me, I’m happy to do it. After all, they’ve taken the time to come to my show. Gilda Matthews sent me t-shirts that say “Spread the love,” and I think we should, we don’t have to hoard love any more than we’d hoard water; there’s enough for everyone.

  • Claiming Cranko’s Shrewd Choreography: An Interview with Andreza Randisek and Rodrigo Guzmán
    Posted on 05 Jun 2012 in Blog-Dance, Dance

    This ballet is so hard! It will never go perfectly no matter how much you rehearse. Something always goes wrong. But this ballet is one of my favorites is because it’s a joy when you can give the public something for the soul and the brain.

  • Dance to the Music: National Youth Orchestras of Chile
    Posted on 04 Jun 2012 in Blog-Dance, Dance, Music

    My father, Hugo Domínguez, had been Hen’s assistant, and one day they were walking in a poor neighborhood, where the kids played soccer barefoot in the dust with a sweater rolled up as a ball. Jorge said to my father, “How many Claudio Araújo’s do you think there are there in that group?” That was his vision.

  • Smuin Ballet and Diablo Ballet: Two Praiseworthy Bay Area Dance Companies
    Posted on 10 May 2012 in Blog-Dance, Dance

    There are a few privileges that come with the role of dance critic. One that is not so obvious, but very gratifying, is watching companies start, develop, and come into their own. If you remain in one locale long enough, you see large companies grow more magisterial, and small ones pop up on the horizon, fall away, or survive and aggregate dancers, repertoire, audiences, endowment, and heft.

  • Don Quixote, San Francisco Ballet, War Memorial Opera House, April 27, 2012
    Posted on 29 Apr 2012 in Dance, Performing Arts

    Let the ballet snobs pound sand in the corrida if they find neither rhyme, reason, nor much musical innovation in Don Quixote: It is still that sampler of delicacies which, done right, can end the dance season on a crescendo, and on April 27, San Francisco Ballet surpassed all expectations! The fun begins when your companion of the evening points out querulously that there is a horse trailer parked at the stage door. You explain, “For the donkey.”

  • An Interview with San Francisco Ballet Soloist Clara Blanco
    Posted on 26 Apr 2012 in Blog-Dance, Dance

    But dancing a character both fulfills and exhausts you. After Artifact, I felt dead, but it was a good dead!

  • Dance Review: Alonzo King LINES Ballet’s Triangle of Squinches
    Posted on 19 Apr 2012 in Blog-Dance, Dance

    Act I of Alonzo King LINES Ballet’s Triangle of Squinches plays out in front of a backdrop of several hundred silvered bungee cords, stretched perpendicular to the Novellus Theater stage floor so that they form a brilliantine thicket through which dancers will emerge, and retreat. The dancers will pluck the cords like harp strings, lean in to, ascend and descend them.

  • San Francisco Ballet’s Program 7, an All-Balanchine Affair
    Posted on 15 Apr 2012 in Dance, Performing Arts

    Top honors for the program go to the company’s interpretation of The Four Temperaments, to music by Paul Hindemith. Daniel Deivison-Oliveira and Kristina Lind open the work, each offering an unfolding hand to the other. As she recreates the off-balance pas de deux, Lind carries the very texture of the Balanchine line—long-limbed, with generous extensions—inviting comparisons to Patricia Neary.

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