We should be dismantling systems, NOT each other. It is possible to cut out all the yelling and shaming. Art can make change through harmonious protest. I believe we can live in a place that celebrates our commonality.
Born in New York in 1964, Peter G Kalivas was a child of two worlds: America and Greece. He found the call of dance and the celebration of culture in his early years within the orthodox church. The freedom of movement brought him joy that would transform into a lifelong career.
After auditioning for Alvin Ailey in 1989, he began studying dance at The Ailey School, the official school of Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.
He joined the Dinosaur Dance Company, associated with Jerome Robins Dance Division of the New York Public Library. He toured across Mexico, where the troop danced in unconventional spaces including flower fields, on farms and even in the back of trucks.
“I learned that it is much more important to make something happen and keep with the essential idea of keeping the work accessible,” said Kalivas.
An invitation to run a dance conservatory in Stuttgart, Germany for a year cascaded into greater opportunities. Peter choreographed a television show in Berlin, began teaching in Munich at another dance school and auditioned for Bavarian State Ballet, known as Bayerisches Staatsballett.
“As exciting as the time was, it came with its own set of challenges. The ballet expects their men to be the ideal storybook prince; tall, gorgeous, wealthy and aristocratic. Because I am short, I wasn’t always appreciated in spite of my skill set,” said Kalivas.
That perceived disadvantage turned into an asset when Gwinnie Sax, an established contemporary choreographer from London saw the potential in Kalivas’ Bayerisches Staatsballett audition. He was selected as lead dancer for the ballet.
An ambitious entrepreneur, Kalivas was always “hustling” on the side to find additional work as a dancer or to support his own creative endeavors. While still in Germany, he started his own company with five women who graduated from Iwanson International School of Contemporary Dance. Together they performed across Germany, France and Italy. This would become the model for future companies that Kalivas established in New York and San Diego.
During what extended into a two and half year stay in Germany, he met his boyfriend who was in the U.S. Army stationed in Germany and won Kalivas over with his New York forthrightness. In spite of intermittent years in different places across the globe, they have managed to preserve their relationship for 26 years. They currently share a home together in San Diego’s Webster community, which Kalivas describes as the closest thing to New York that San Diego offers.
When he moved to San Diego the first time in 1993, Kalivas performed with Malashock Dance and the San Diego Ballet. He took a six-year hiatus from America’s Finest City to return to New York to work with dancer and choreographer Seán Curran. When he returned to California in 2002, he established The PGK DANCE Project.
As the Founding Director, Kalivas created a mission to make audiences feel that they have an open connection to the world. Unconventional spaces, authentic bodies, inclusivity and bold engagement has defined his dance company.
“My company celebrates a space where everyone contributes. There are no prima donnas. Everyone is on the same level. Everyone is on the stage. We dance together. That’s the world that I want to live in. One that celebrates our shared commonality,” said Kalivas.
His dance troop has just recently completed their final season of public performances, which included a collaboration with Hillcrest Business Associations’ new monthly art crawl WALK IN A.R.T. held on the first Thursday of every month. In May’s event, PGK DANCE Project performed several dances inspired by the Greek God exhibition of artworks by American Master Hyacinthe Baron and younger professional artists at The Studio Door. A short film by Akoun Creations intertwines rehearsals and public performances is available to watch online on VIMEO at Vimeo.com/552508024.
Setting his sights on new challenges in a post-COVID world, Kalivas has decided to disassemble his company and transition into project-based works.
“Art should be about reflection not rejection. Art should not be harming people. That’s the opposite of what art should be. My company tries to dispel all the myths of what a dancer should look like and remove the history of exclusion in dance.”
The PGK DANCE Project’s final live performance is a work entitled DEEPLY ROOTED. It will be performed on May 29th at Casa Familiar’s new performing arts center in San Ysidro. Joined by Junkyard Dance Crew and Grupo de Danza Minerva Tapia, the company shares a look at the beauty and challenges of staying true to who you are. Details are online at https://fb.me/e/OX6DUpcI
The performance also shot on location at Bread and Salt has been filmed and will be available online throughout June for $5.00 on demand. Audiences will be treated to an additional film, 1986’s festival favorite STIFLING that showcases Kalivas in a solo performance of his own choreography.
Additionally, on June 24th, the film version of DEEPLY ROOTED will be premiered in person at Vanguard Culture’s season ALCHEMY at 7 PM.
Patric Stillman is a fine artist and gallery owner of The Studio Door. If you are an artist in San Diego’s LGBTQ+ community and would like to be featured in an artist profile, please contact Patric for consideration at [email protected].