Month: June 2016

June 10th, “Manifesting (World Premiere) and Stay (2015)”

Choreography by Hope Mohr

Almost Caught Up

The first weeks in June were busy, but I’m almost caught up now.  I saw Hope Mohr Dance three times last year.  Mohr is a sharp a choreographer curator, and director.  I am definitely looking forward to her work in the 2016 Bridge Project at Yerba Buena Center for Arts in the Fall.  

Mohr is not afraid to think nor is she afraid to show the audience how she thinks.  In many ways, Manifesting, is about thinking, about the process of thinking.  It is also a dance about speech, of calling out and being called. Mohr states that Manifesting, “inspired by artist manifestos, flows from [her] curiosity about the interplay between desires and rules in the creative process.” So it is also a dance about moving between woulds (desires) and shoulds (rules).  Manifest, an adjective, suggests something that is clear or obvious whereas manifest, a verb, suggests the display or show of something.  A manifesto, a noun, is a public declaration of change that arises out of a tension between creative impulses and restrictive norms.

What, then, is manifesting?  What kind of action? What kind of process?

I liked walking into the theater and seeing the stage look different with conference tables, low lighting, and telephones.  It looked more like an office than a stage.  I got a giggle from the costumes as it reminded me of an old joke: what is red, white, and black all over?  (answer: a newspaper).  The written word is referenced not only in the costumes but also in the dance as Mohr incorporates spoken word and singing.  It seems then that manifesting as it is articulated in the dance has something to do with the actualization of words.  The refrain, “please speak louder” amplified this notion for me.  Because I am writing this from many weeks past my watching the details of the choreography are a bit fuzzy and then I wonder if this has to do with the abundance of words in the piece.

I didn’t take too many notes of Stay and when I saw it last year, I didn’t write about the details of the piece.  I remember liking its sexiness and sophisticated movement, and this time, I felt a little less of this.  Why repeat this dance? Why did it’s repetition matter?  I wonder if it has something to do with the need to fill time.  Why not just show Manifesting?  I ask these questions because I talked with a few people afterwards (at the theater and on the bus), and they seemed a little weary.  Did Mohr ask too much from her audience?  Maybe and maybe not.  Even so, I’m still a fan.   

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June 3rd & 4th “Walking Distance Festival”

Choreography by Many

Writing Out of Sequence

I’m a little out of sequence posting this response – lots of dance at the beginning of June.  I’ve watched and written this festival for 3 years.  This year, The program consisted of two different experiences: an evening of theater dance and an afternoon of site-specific dance.  

In her program notes, Marie Tollon (ODC’s Writer-in-Residence) framed the Friday night’s program as “Identity as a Constellation,” which aptly captured the thematic connection between the two performers, Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu and Christopher K. Morgan.  Both share a connection to Hawaiian tradition in contemporary contexts.  In their dances, these connections were forged in direct ways, explicitly leading the audience to consider communal and individual journeys by dancing and talking.  In this context, the talking by Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu director, Patrick Makuākane in between the dances.  I learned a lot about the hula dance tradition and was interested in how Makuākane uses the language of hula to participate in political conversations.  For example, Makuākane choreographed The Birth Certificate Hula in 2012 in response to the “controversy” over Obama’s birth certificate.  Yes, even hula can be rhetorical.

After Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu I walked from the ODC dance commons to the ODC By Way to watch Pohaku.  The two companies met in the street and performed a ritual – it seemed fitting.  Pohaku, choreographed and danced by Morgan also included talking.  Morgan and danced and narrated this dance theater piece that brings “together storytelling, hula, modern dance, classical music, and projection design to explore compelling universal themes in the story of Hawaii’s native people, including land loss and fractured identity.”  I didn’t think much about this piece.  So I tried to seek out a little more information and watched this short video about the piece.  I found much more interesting than the dance itself. I wonder what makes a dance more interesting to watch in the process of making than to watch in performance.     

Saturday afternoon the festival included for the first time a set of site-specific dances all over the mission.  Titled, “Mission Street Dances,” the audience was led to six different locations to see dances by Smith/Wymore, David Herrera Performance Company, 13th Floor, ODC/Dance, Dance Brigade, and Kim Epifano’s Epiphany Productions.  I enjoyed much of what I watched including the streets.  The small duets by ODC/Dance dotted the route between the six dances that were mostly staged outside in a park, parking lot, storefront, alley, and side of a building.  There was talking, singing, dancing, and more.  I really didn’t have a favorite dance, but I did enjoy the afternoon of walking and watching, and I enjoyed seeing dances that I had never seen such as Dance Brigade and 13th Floor.  The pulse of the street was felt in both expected and unexpected ways.  

June 11th, “60 Second Dances”

Curated by Melissa Lewis, Choreography by Many

There was a warm buzz in the tiny Book & Job gallery on Saturday night.   On view was a debut photography show, Multiples, by Melissa Lewis.  Lewis states that the “show is an attempt of understanding what a multiple is.”  I came on Saturday night not only to see Lewis’ photographs but also to watch “60 Second Dances.”  Lewis commissioned and curated 21 dancers/choreographers to make one-minute responses to each of her photographs that hung in the gallery.  

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The dances extended the show’s theme as a reflection of multiples upon multiples – an interplay of different parts, an arrangement (or composition) that allowed for more than one connection.  Even Geary St. added a sonic/atmospheric multiple.    

What does a 60 second dance look like?  I’m not sure I have an answer, but for me it wasn’t about the individual dances. I was more interested in how “the whole” of these pieces came embodied a collective response to Lewis’ photographs.  As I moved around the tiny room trying to watch these dances, I started to see them as parts of a larger conversation.  In this conversation, I noticed humor, delicacy, honesty, peculiarity, and others.  The connections made between the dances and photographs were explicit and implicit, as well as reactive and reflective – a speaking of wishes, desires, and whimsey.  

There was something tender about the 20 or so minutes of dance, which might be indicative of Lewis’ personal connection to each of the performers or how her photographs included so much of herself in them.

I wonder how my response fits into the conversation.  Is this response here part of the multiples?  Could I dance it?  I truly appreciate dance experiences that can provoke me to think in new ways not just about dances, but about how I respond to them.   

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May 29th, “The Dionysian Festival”

Mary Sano and her Duncan Dancers, Megan Nicely

Music and Sound by Benjamin Akela Belew, Tony Chapman, and Erick Scheid

Watching my  4 Year-Old  Watch Dance

Yes, I took my daughter.  We went to see our friend, Megan Nicely, dance and were pleasantly surprised to also see so much variety on the program: small kids performed, original works for piano were played and butoh-inspired dance presented.   I’ve taken my daughter to see dance before, and I keep trying.  She got a little tired toward the end (we only stayed for the first ½).  But when Nicely took the stage she focused and even tried to mimic some of her movements – it was pretty sweet to watch my 4-year-old try to embody  my friend’s dancing.  Sometimes the best shows are not necessarily about the dancing as dancing.  Sometimes the best shows are about how they generate experiences that linger.  I’ll never forget this moment of watching my daughter watching my friend’s dancing.  

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May 26th, “10th Anniversary Home Season”

Little Seismic Dance Company, Choreography by Katie Faulkner

Sometimes it’s hard to write about a choreographer or a dancer you know.  Other times it’s easy, and this evening one of those times.  I’ve known Faulkner since 2007; we met shortly after I moved to San Francisco.  I was always struck by her generous spirit and playful sense of humor, which were on stunning display Thursday night.

Aptly titled “Deep Field,” a solo performed by Faulkner, was an embodiment of profound reflection about a history of process and a particular field of communication.  The sonic and visual landscape by Michael Trigilio and Heather Stockton respectively amplified the autobiographical nature that Faulkner so clearly danced.  Even without the choreographer’s note, Faulkner’s movements spoke – each gesture, glance, vibration – from the inside out.  It was personal, but relatable – a clarity of telling that I could feel in my bones.

“Coat of Arms” induced small bursts of laughter from the audience – a kind of seismic response.  The subtle gazes and slight gestures performed with such stunning precision created a witty duet that reflected the universal quirk of relationships.

The last piece, “Don’t Worry Baby,” was harder to grasp, harder to feel.  It was more sculptural than the other pieces and as a result it felt different.  While superbly danced the piece for me seemed a little distant or disconnected somehow.

Faulkner closed her choreographers note “with gratitude,” and that is how I felt at the end of the evening.  I left the theater with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for Faulkner’s choreographic vision and courage to put so much of herself on stage. It was an honor that I can’t wait to repeat.