Month: April 2015

April 25th, University of San Francisco Dance Ensemble Spring 2015 Concert

Choreographed by University of San Francisco Faculty (with Guest Artists Lauren Simpson and Jenny Stulberg)

I got to see Still Life for Two No. 2 again – such fun, repeat

Student shows back-to-back.  It was great to see these two shows so close together (I am a geek and dance nerd for sure).  I have learned to appreciate the spring dance concert at USF, and it’s gotten better over the years.  It is usually a short program with a wide variety of dance (ballet, hip hop, contemporary, African), and the dancers dance their hearts out it.  This year, Naby Bangoura, D Montalvo, Eli Nelson, and Jennifer Polyocan presented dances.  The dancers may not have same level of technical skill as the Berkeley students and it may show, but their commitment to the performance, to the stage is just as strong. For example, Kusan-Hsuan Lee danced the solo variation from Esmeralda with such delight that I couldn’t help but giggle.  She didn’t have the best technique (and her costume was terrible), but she took command of the stage and didn’t let go.  It was a joy to watch, truly.  

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April 23rd, “Berkeley Dance Project”

Choreography by many

CONTEXT: I had never been to a Berkeley student dance concert before.  Why this time?  A good friend (someone that I do not often go out to see such things with) suggested we go so I said yes.  I also knew one of the choreographers (Jo Kreiter) and am always interested to see works being redone (Flag by Ann Carlson).  My Dad was visiting with his girlfriend so I brought them with me.

RESPONSE: The dancers were strong and the pieces well-rehearsed.  This is the second time I’ve seen Joe Kreiter’s work in the theater and it had the same impact (that I wish she would stick to site-specific work).  The program notes set-up the piece, When to Let Go,  to be politically engaged/engaging by citing journalist Chris Hedges about the state of income inequality, which he called “the disease of empire.”  I didn’t feel or sense this message/question.  It was technically interesting, but for me that technique didn’t fit or produce the work’s intended message.  It’s fun to watch artful swinging, but it didn’t say much.  Falling Square was boring and too long.  It had some moments that resonated with its stated inspiration of the Free Speech Movement, but it didn’t hold up.  I’m pretty sure my Dad fell asleep (granted he was jet lagged, but still).  Flag was energetic and conceptually interesting – I was engaged and entertained. I was different and I appreciated how it was trying to convey.  The program notes were lacking in any meaningful orientation about the dance.  Perhaps that was intentional?

The blog had some great information that would of been helpful before not after the piece.  Perhaps it was the audience’s responsibility to seek out this information online rather than provide it on site (i.e. I like program notes).

April 19th, “Sarah (the smuggler)”

Choreographed by Sara Shelton Mann in collaboration with Keith Hennessy

What if I don’t get it?

I haven’t seen it yet, but I read a little bit about the background on this piece.  I must admit to some hesitation.  Does it matter if I know the history or Mann’s story? 

After seeing the piece, here are my reflections:

Moving history – Moving self

A beautiful exercise in present-ness

Archive/Study/Repeating Differently

Energy – energetic

Great words

I didn’t get the whole of the piece, but I came away with something. Sometimes dance makers/collaborators make dance for themselves or small “select audiences” (take a look at Hennessy’s interview).  I get that as a process, and yet I don’t get it.  I wonder how many in the audience had seen or worked with Mann before?

April 11th, “Pilot 65: Cruising Altitude”

Choreography by many

There were six pieces by six different choreographers and I wrote about everyone – it was a little exhausting.

Bush of Ghosts: The Back of Beyond, Marika Brussel

Ballet recital

Morning Poems, Sebastian Grubb

Better than the first, but very self-absorbed

The Great Discovery of Self & Selfie, Emma Crane Jaster with Marie Walburg-Plouviez

A little too long, but so sweet and fun.  I can’t wait to check out the film they were working on during the performance.  It was a delight to watch.

Beckon, detour dance

I must confess a little bias here – I know the choreographers and some of the dancers.  But it was smart (much smarter than the last piece I saw of theirs last year at the USF Dance Concert).  It was nuanced and playful – it spoke.  This is the kind of the dance that matters (to me).  This dance attempted to be part of a larger conversation about relationships, communication, and stereotypes.

Still Life for Two #2, Laura Simpson and Jenny Stulberg

The technical precision was stunning.  They never really left the floor after they slid down from the wall (still life set in motion).  The music was perfect (composed for the piece).  I really just wanted to see this again and again.  It didn’t speak, but it did demonstrate the beauty of technical precision.  And sometimes that is enough and just what you need from a dance.  One last point, I could see myself in this piece – I could see myself moving in this way; yes, I still miss performing.

Sensitive Pleasures, Esmeralda Kundanis

Laughter, absurdity, flash photography.  This dance also spoke with a growing, relentless ridiculousness about fashion/style, and the need to stay “one step ahead” and be better than the next.  The end was a little of a let-down (how do you end an endless cycle?).  Sure it was funny, but by the end I had a little knot in my stomach.  There was some truth happening here and the truth these days seems a little too much to bear.  Does it really matter when wealth inequality is wrecking havoc all over the nation?  When will enough be enough?  Will we ever see a point where we can start caring for people as people?

This was a fun evening of dance (so glad it got better in the 2nd ½).  I like what the ODC is cultivating with these programs.

April 9th,”Schokovitch Trilogy”

Choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky and danced by San Francisco Ballet

No one fell asleep this time!  I spent some time with the program and got a little caught in them, or rather the lack of them.  The best reflections on the piece came from the Musical director and Principal conductor, Martin West. To some extent, this makes sense given that the ballet is about the Russian composer Schokovitch.  I have no idea who wrote the notes about the dance but they end with this: “The color red is prominent; backdrops offer hints of Stalin-era Russia. Yet all three ballets are markedly different”.  This seems like an obvious point.  Why bother?  When I closed the program, I wondered why should I invest or care about this ballet?

In contrast, the SF Symphony program notes from 4/18 were stellar (yes, I am a little behind with my writing).  They were quite informative and even included suggested readings.  In the past, these suggestions have prompted me to read more about Charlie Chaplin, Chopin, and others. I felt not only welcomed, but respected as an audience member.  

I don’t really care if the MacArthur Foundation thinks Ratmansky (choreographer) is a “genius” or if the repetiteur is more forthcoming about the intent and emotion of the piece than Ratmansky.  Give me notes that offer more than just the obvious, give me something that matters to how might “see” the dance better.

April 3rd, “Antigonick”

Written by  Anne Carson  and Co-directed by Mark Jackson & Hope Mohr 

A friend of mine commented that she didn’t like this production of Antigone. She said as a story it left her cold; she didn’t really care about anyone.  Honestly, I hadn’t thought about that.  My interest in Greek tragedy, especially Antigone, has a history (Chapter 2 of my dissertation was about the Greek tragic chorus).  Hence, I am always interested to see how rhetoric gets treated in Antigone – how do the public/private, justice/law, man/god, individual/communal binaries get drawn – how much does the power of speech matter – how does the chorus move (rhetorically).  As such, I don’t need to care about anyone.   Antigonick doesn’t shy away from rhetoric even if it doesn’t “do it all.”  Not all the elements are in this production (a common fate of modern productions of Antigone, at least the one’s I’ve seen). But it didn’t bother me. Perhaps I was distracted by the dancing or the use of plastic and dirt.  Maybe it was the literal moving of a dead corpse throughout the play or the humor displayed by the messenger/guard.  There was a high level artistry in this production.  Antigonick reminds us that tragedy does matter (it can still teach).  Because we keep repeating their lessons, the Greeks are never that far away from us even if their tragedies appear differently.   I might try and see this again before it closes, and that doesn’t happen very much.

PS. I know this isn’t a dance, but there was a lot of dancing and I just couldn’t help but write about this.