Month: March 2016

March 26th, “Lauda Adrianna”

Stephen Pelton Dance Theatre, choreography by Stephen Pelton from movement devised by the company

Music – the haunting laude by Gavin Byrars was deeply felt.  Bearing witness to a process of grieving, of sorting through loss and pain of emptiness.  Considering the afterness of passing.

There are perhaps other things to say in response to this piece – like a poem – but I think I will let this one just sit as it is, and be thankful to witness.    

File_000 (17)

P.S. I know there was a lot Bay Area History that also sat with me in the audience, I could feel (and see) it, but didn’t feel like writing that part.  Sometimes dances just need to be.


March 17th, “Program 5”

San Francisco Ballet, choreography by Jerome Robbins and Yuri Possokhov

Sitting in Row E.


File_000 (16)

In big theaters, I don’t choose to sit this close – Row E – but for this performance I did.  Sitting here, I could watch the detailed movements of the feet and even the sweat on faces and backs.  It was a perfect location to take in all the delicate surprises of Dances at a Gathering.  The subtle gestures and weight shifting were delightful, and I reveled in live accompaniment – Chopin.  I could have watched that piece again and again.  It was one of those dances that I could see myself dancing.  I felt close to this piece; I wanted to touch it.

Row E was not the perfect location, however, to watch Swimmer; I am not sure there was a perfect location.  Confession: I did not read the program notes.  Hindsight: I should of read the program notes.  A week later, I am still trying to figure out why people like this piece. I just couldn’t connect with it.  Yes, there was some good dancing, but I couldn’t figure out what the dance was saying or asking. What was I being asked to consider or think about? I don’t mind when a dance makes me work, but I do mind when a dance only seems to be speaking for itself.   

It took me a while to figure this out.  When asked how I felt about this piece my gut responses were, “waste of resources” and “too much going on.”  Yet, as I sat lingered with the dance (including the program notes) for a bit, I realized my discontent was rooted elsewhere.  The program notes suggest that the thinking behind the piece works from “deeply personal experiences,” which are left for the viewer to make any interpretation.  Yet, I didn’t get the sense that I was invited into to these experiences, into Possokhov’s concepts, point-of-views, etc.   Instead, I was just watching from a distance.  

Often, there is already enough distance between the dancing and audience when sitting in the theater.  The differences in watching (and writing about) these two pieces reminded me that the presence and action of distance can matter in dance, which can be deeply personal, highly contextual, and even physical.  

March 10th, “Analogy/Dora:Tramontane”

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, choreography by Bill T. Jones with Janet Wong and the Company

Bill and I have been seeing each other for a while.

I first saw the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in 2006 when they performed Blind Date in Madison, WI.  I was in graduate school, and eventually, the dance became a central feature in one chapter of my dissertation.  Since then, I’ve also seen Chapel/Chapter, Fondly Do We Hope…Fervently Do We Pray, A Rite, and Story/Time.   I’m did not read any reviews before seeing this piece, but I did take the time to listen to this interview with Jones on KQED’s Forum with Michael Kransy.  In it, Jones claims that this piece is a departure for the company.  I am not sure how much of  a departure this piece is from the others I’ve seen – abstraction of storytelling, text, and movement all seem to be at play in this work too.  This work is a story and a telling of that story via Jones (with Janet Wong and the Company).   There is no doubt that Jones is telling this story.

File_000 (15)

First, some orientation (thanks to the program notes).  Analogy/Dora; Tramontane is based on the oral history conducted by Bill T. Jones with Dora Amelan, “a ninety-five-year-old-French-Jewish women” recently “awarded the French legion of Honor of her World War II activities as part of O.S.E., a Jewish organization dedicated to saving children that was first established in 1917 and went underground in France during the war’s occupation.”  

Like most pieces I’ve seen by Jones, I found myself watching with my ears and listening with eyes.  There is a distinct abstraction between what is being spoken or sung and what is happening on stage.  The text, Amelan’s oral history, is spoken out loud by different dancers as they move about the stage – her story has more than one voice – it moves.   Amelan’s history unfolds as a series of vignettes accented by the mobile set pieces that are rearranged by the dancers.  Perhaps invoking the labor of history/memory making.  I don’t remember much about the dancing; it seemed to get eclipsed by the abstract storytelling and striking music (performed live by Nick Hallett and Emily Manzo).  Jones, it seems, likes to make his audiences work and because of that, the lovely dancing doesn’t always get noticed.  Brian Siebert’s review of Analogy/Dora; Tramontane in the New York Times only devotes 4 sentences to the dancing.  I am still trying to figure out if this is ok.

Since seeing this piece, I can’t help but think about my German grandparents; they survived WWII along with my mother.  They never liked to talk much about their experiences.  So much of their histories were willfully lost.  I wonder – there must be countless untold stories.  Is history ever complete?  Who gets to tell history’s stories?  Who owns history?

In many ways, this is what Jones does best – he provokes questions.  More accurately, he brings audiences to questions by re-making and abstracting stories, histories, and politics.  For now, this is enough to keep me coming back to his work.

February 13th, “Ondine”

The Cutting Ball Theater

File_000 (14)

I went to this play on the recommendation of someone I met in a laundry mat.  I texted a friend, and within an hour we had tickets.  Again, I went for the experience of being with others.  The performance seemed secondary.   I wonder how often this happens – how many people sitting in a theater are there because they want to be others (for whatever reason)?  After the show, we did talk about the production, performance,  and writing, but what mattered more was that we were together.  Sometimes it seems that what lingers after is not the story, actors, sets, music, or costumes, but the connections between people and the exchange of thinking, feeling, and musing.   This was an evening well spent even if the company lingered more than the performance.