Over the years, the Merola Opera has made it possible for The Lively Foundation friends to attend some of its wonderful performances in San Francisco. Named after Gaetano Merola, the first director of the San Francisco Opera, Merola is THE great training program for professional singers. They spend a year in Merola and go on to become world famous stars. Just a few of their graduates are Ruth Ann Swenson, Thomas Hampson, Deborah Voight, Brian Asawa. In July, Lively friends attended a comic Mozart opera performed by the Merolini (singers in the program carry this festive name), Il re pastore.

Zhengyi Bai as Alessandro in Il re pastore

Patricia Westley as Elisa in Il re pastore

On August 18, a group of Lively friends will attend the Merola Grand Finale at the San Francisco Opera House. It will be a sensational evening. All of the 2018 Merolini will perform. The program includes arias, duets, and other groupings selected from many different operas. The voices will be excellent. Watch the Lively Foundation News & Events and the Hedgehog Highlights on for a report and review of this great event. It’s the Merolini’s graduation party, and we are invited!

photos by Kristen Loken, courtesy Merola Opera

Charlotte Bronte: The Bats of Haworth

The Lively Foundation is proud to announce that the Browning Society of San Francisco, a prominent literary and theater society, has invited our Artistic Director, Leslie Friedman to make a presentation on January 12, 1:00 p.m., the Sequoias, 1400 Geary, San Francisco. Admission is free. A reception with cake, coffee, tea follows the talk.

The Bronte sisters, Emily, Anne, Charlotte, painted by their brother, Branwell.

Leslie will show the video of her dance, THE BATS OF HAWORTH, which is accompanied by spoken excerpts from the writings of Charlotte Bronte, and music of Chopin. The dance is a trio about the Bronte sisters. This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Emily Bronte, author of Wuthering Heights. The presentation will include a talk about the sisters and their art as well as about the choreography. Dr. Friedman choreographed and danced in this work.

The presentation is free and open to the public, Jan. 12, 1:00 p.m., at the Sequoias, 1400 Geary Blvd., San Francisco. You may enter through the buildings Post St. entrance, sign in, take the elevators to the top floor. For more information, please contact Dennis R. Parks, 415/668-0332 or  or find the Browning Society on Facebook.


The Lively Foundation is recognized by the State of California and the Internal Revenue Service and a 501(c) (3) not for profit organization, since 1984. As a non-profit Lively has never taken a political position or used our programs to endorse any particular political program. Not once. Not even a little. Supporting the US Constitution, however, is not a political position as all American citizens and political leaders of every party are working to protect the Constitution and further its values. Therefore the following statement is not political speech at all; it is American speech.

From its inception, The Lively Foundation’s performers have come from myriad different backgrounds. Seldom, maybe never, have the dancers in the company had grandparents or great grandparents who were from the same continent, let alone the same country. Similarly, as Choreographer and Artistic Director, I have used ideas, themes, movement styles, and especially music from myriad sources: African; American folk, jazz, classical; Arabic; Chinese; various European classical, popular, and folk sources; Indian; South American; even more. I have worked with these gifted individuals and the beautiful, interesting, inspiring music and other resources because they are good, not to make a point, not to earn a grant, only because they are good.

Neither The Lively Foundation nor myself as its Artistic Director will ever limit our work to any one resource or style for our art or for our artists. It is impossible to dictate our creativity or with whom we will work. It is, in fact, Un-American, and neither The Lively Foundation nor I will stoop to align ourselves to someone’s requests or demands. If I had been willing to do that in previous circumstances The Lively Foundation surely would be better funded but it would not create such first rate art as it does.

Leslie Friedman, Artistic Director & Vice-President

Martina Knee: Champion of Freedom


The Lively Foundation is profoundly saddened by the loss of Martina Knee. We only learned recently that Ms Knee passed away, Sept. 26, 2016. She was a remarkable woman, especially as a tireless champion of refugees and a relentless fighter against genocide. She is survived by her husband and her Sudanese god son. Born in Austria, she came to the US with her family at age two. Both parents were MDs. She worked her way to her B.A. at UC, Berkeley, and to her JD from UC, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall. She left a successful corporate law career to become VP and General Counsel for UUNET, an Internet Service Provider that grew to be the world’s largest ISP. She retired from corporate life in 2005. She discovered her family’s Jewish background as an adult and became dedicated to fighting all genocide. She was Executive Director of the Bay Area Darfur Coalition;  a co-founder of Act for Sudan, an alliance of American activists and Sudanese refugees in the US. The list of organizations to which she devoted her time, energy and great intelligence is very long. She became a Carl Wilkens Fellow, focused on developing the political direction among community leaders to stop and prevent genocide. She was a member of the Advisory Board of the UC Berkeley Law School Human Rights Center; an officer and Director Of Living Ubuntu which focused on the health of refugees and public awareness of their needs; a member of the American Jewish World Services; co-chair of the International Human Rights portfolio of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs’ task Force on Israel World Jewry, and International Human Rights. This is only a brief sample of her devotion to human rights locally and around the world. Martina was honored as a “Darfur Hero” by the Save Darfur Coalition in October 2007 and received the Honorable Tom Lantos Memorial Humanitarian of the Year award, 2008. In 2006, Martina and her husband, Michael, assisted a family of South Sudanese who emigrated from Uganda to San Francisco. Martina and Mike mentored and tutored two of the younger members of the family who graduated from Stuart Hall High School. Emmanuel, who earned a college degree with their love and support, is like a son to them.
The Lively Foundation Artistic Director, Leslie Friedman, met Ms Knee in the court yard of Temple Emanu El, San Francisco. The Temple had for many months a huge banner asking everyone to support efforts to help Sudanese refugees and to stop the atrocities in Darfur. Ms Knee was behind a table like any volunteer with a petition, literature, and requests for donations. In conversation about what could be done, Ms Friedman mentioned that she was involved in a performance at the Cowell Theater very soon (probably in a few days). The Lively Foundation needed volunteers to sell refreshments, mostly water, during the intermission. Would Ms Knee and/or any volunteers for the Darfur efforts like to come to the performance, sell refreshments and keep every cent that came in from the sales? Yes. In this way, without knowing any more about Martina Knee than that she was working very hard for this desperate cause, we had the great honor to meet a great human being. May her memory be a blessing.



Lively Friends Meet the Merolinis

janeLeslieFrancoMerolaGrpSharonAnnA Lively group of Friends of The Lively Foundation enjoyed an evening of gorgeous singing at the San Francisco Opera House, Aug. 20.  The eleven Lively individuals came from Marin, San Francisco, Pacifica, Mountain View, and San Jose. The Merola Opera program has given Lively tickets for its friends to attend Merola performances each of the last 7 summers. Merola is a training program for singers on their way to international fame. The program gives them many opportunities and by doing so gives the rest of us the opportunity to hear great music sung by stars. Previous “Merolini”  have included Ruth Ann Swenson, Thomas Hampson, Carol Van Ness, Patrick Summers, Brian Asawa, and many others beginning brilliant careers. This summer rather than a full length opera, eleven Lively friends were treated to the Merola Grand Finale, a gala performance of arias and ensembles accompanied by full orchestra. The voices were splendid. We shall all keep our programs in order to follow the careers of our favorites. Keep in touch with Lively for future great events.


HEROIC, BELOVED: Lively’s Concerts for Women’s History

Heroic leslieThe first one was in March, 1996. HEROIC, BELOVED, a concert of dances about real, historic women, or set to music by women, with lyrics by women, or ideas about women. Every Spring season, 1996 – 2010, The Lively Foundation presented the concerts with new works, guest artists, at home or on tour. From the beginning, it was the FIRST and the ONLY concert for Women’s History Month AND the FIRST and the ONLY production by an arts group to aid breast cancer patients.

In San Francisco, the concerts included choreography by Leslie Friedman for company dancers with Leslie and solo performances by Leslie. On tour through the US, the concerts were all solo. Performances presented by universities and civic organizations appeared in California, Washington state, Iowa, multiple times in various cities of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee. Leslie’s dances included a dance about Harriet Tubman set to a song by the Oakland based group, Higher Ground; a dance with music by Edward Elgar written for a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning; music by Jon Deak for writing by Willa Cather; a song by Tina Turner dedicated to dancer Mary Craighill; Embrace Tiger, Return Rhinemaid to Mountain, a satirical dance for a Cole Porter song; a Brahms violin sonata for Clara, a dance about Clara Schumann; the velvety vocal of Miss Helen Humes’ ballad, Every Now and Then; the rousing spiritual, Come Down, Angels, written by Undine Smith Moore. And more: The Bats of Haworth, for example, a trio with music by Chopin and text from Charlotte Bronte.

“It amazed me when I got a call from some other dancers wanting to know who my funders were because they wanted to do a program like this, too!” recalls Leslie. “My funders?! I did the program because it needed to be done.

PDillardMy first guest artist, opera singer Pamela Dillard, was beautiful. She sang Come Down, Angels with me dancing, too. She said she always ran in the Avon event in San Francisco and was delighted to help. At one performance, Gloria Guth Pasta, my dear friend from graduate school, came with her cancer support group. That was a moment to remember always. That was my ‘funding.'”

Picture: top:Leslie Friedman, Washington, D.C.; photo by Jonathan Clark; Pamela Dillard



FaceToFaceGrpJuly26DanceChinese Performing Arts of America–CPAA–invited The Lively Foundation to present a dance in the 1st Silicon Valley Arts Showcase, July 26, 2-3:30 p.m., at CPAA’s International Performing Arts Center, 6148 Bollinger Road, San Jose. It is an honor and very exciting to be included. Four beautiful dancers will perform Face to Face, a dance choreographed by Leslie Friedman for the Adagio for English Horn & Strings by Mozart. A wonderful group of dancers has been rehearsing the dance every day; now, the performance is about to begin! The program will include both Chinese and Western music and dance. At the same site, there is also an exhibition of painting and calligraphy which opens July 25. Pictures: In rehearsal at the Mountain View Masonic Center, Mountain View, CA, onstage, L to R: Natalie Duong, Katy Walter, Laila Waheed, Leelianna Fezli; standing, L to R: Leelianna Fezli, Laila Waheed, Natalie Duong, Katy Walter.

Leslie Friedman: WHY? BECAUSE, A Dance of World War I

The San Francisco Browning Society will present Leslie Friedman on Friday, May 8, 2 p.m. at The Sequoias, 1400 Geary Blvd., San Francisco. Dr. Friedman will give a talk about the creation of her dance, WHY? BECAUSE, and its relationship to World War I. She will also show the dance.      The music is Sir Edward Elgar’s ‘Cello Concerto, the Adagio and Allegro movements. This two part dance was premiered as part of Dances at the Henge, part of the official programming of Britain Meets the Bay, organized by the British Council, in San Francisco. Tributes to this extraordinary dance have come from critics and audience members alike. Leslie Friedman received the Best Solo Performance Award from the Dean Goodman Choice Awards, 2001, for her performance of WHY? BECAUSE.

“In the first movement, she is a memorial come to life, carrying bouquets of red paper poppies made by veterans. In the second, she is the innocents, eager and young, who see horrors they could never anticipate. The vivid imagery of her inventive movement will never let me think of war without recalling this dancer who knows how to move as though she has lost her legs.”

                                                      Carmelita Ng, Ng on the Arts

Why Bec 3275px-Edward_Elgarphotos: (L) Leslie Friedman in WHY? BECAUSE (R) Composer Sir Edward Elgar


LailaHeadshotSkyeWindsorMeet Lailah Waheed (Left) and Skye Windsor (Right) Lively’s wonderful new dancers. They will perform THE GOLD RUSH! this spring. More than 30,000 students plus additional numbers of teachers and parents have enjoyed Lively’s production, THE GOLD RUSH! since we began offering it to schools in 2001. So far this season four Bay Area Schools have invited us to perform this educational and entertaining program. Lively will perform at the H. Green School, Fremont, CA; Junipero Serra School, Daly City; Ellis School, Sunnyvale; and Bishop School, Sunnyvale. At the Serra School, we will perform twice; once for the younger students and teachers, once for the older students and their teachers. We were thrilled when Teacher Melanie McDonald from the Green School, in Fremont, called way back in September to say, “Please come back and do it again! That was a fantastic assembly for our school.” We’re eager to bring it back: narration taken from letters written in the mining fields, songs and music that were 1850s hits, authentic costumes, great dances!


Announcing the class schedule for WWW 1.0, our first Wonderful Winter Workshop of the International Dance Festival@Silicon Valley. Take all 8 classes, one will be FREE!!

Classes on Saturday, Jan. 18: from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.    at the Mtn.View Masonic Center, MV,  12:30 DUNHAM TECHNIQUE, LESLIE ARBOGAST;1:30  SALSA, LEANNE RINELLI; 2:30 PILATES MAT, AMITY JOHNSON; 3:30 CONTEMPORARY, LESLIE FRIEDMAN; 4:30 LINE DANCING, ETTA WALTON. All classes are mixed levels. NO partners needed for Salsa or Line Dancing.

Classes on Tuesday, Jan. 20, from 6 – 9 p.m. at the Mountain View Masonic Center, MV, CA 94041


DON’T MISS THIS OPPORTUNITY TO GET OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT FOR 2015! DANCE AND HAVE A WONDERFUL TIME! THE ARTIST/TEACHERS WANT TO HELP YOU SHINE! information: contact: The Lively Foundation, livelyfoundation@sbcglobal.netEtta WaltonSmallLeslie angel

Pictures: Left: Etta Walton; Right: Leslie Friedman