Mixed Repertory Program

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.  

File_001 (13)

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.   

File_000 (21)

Advertisements

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.  

0001-347x450

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.

April 14th, “Program 6″

San Francisco Ballet, choreography by Helgi Tomasson, Alexi Ratmansky, and Christopher Wheeldon

Again

File_002

This is the most I’ve seen of a San Francisco Ballet season since moving here in 2007 – 4 so far and 1 left to go.  Again, a mixed repertory program, and again odd programming.  These three pieces (Prisim, Seven Sonatas, and Rush) were very similar, almost too similar.  The program notes highlighted their differences in choreographic approaches, musical choices, and moods, but these differences didn’t provide enough differentiation between the three dances (for me).  Yes, I had a favorite, but it doesn’t really matter as I am not inspired to write about either of these dances.  Yes, there was good dancing, but there usually is good dancing with the San Francisco Ballet. I don’t mind spending time in the beauty of a dance.  I do mind, however, when that is all there is again, and again.  What is there to write or think about?

After I saw Program 2 in February, (Rubies (Balanchine), Drink to me with Thine Eyes (Morris), and Fearless Creatures (Scarlett), I wrote it was a pleasant surprise, but that I wanted more fearless.  

I am still waiting.

 

April 10th, “Pilot 67, 22:16″

Choreography by Many

 Pilot 67 is a program by ODC that provides a performance venue and framework for emerging artists.  Each choreographer is mentored by a professional choreographer and ODC staff in their artistic work, production, and promotion.  I enjoyed this program last year, but it was a challenge to write about all six pieces presented.  I feel them same about this year’s Pilot 67.  So my responses here will be brief, but hopefully reflective and not merely reactive.

File_000

 

Dolly would, Garth Grimball

I could sense the thinking in this piece, a commentary of sorts on the possibility and wish of connection.  Why not?  Why not a skinny ballet dancer and a not-so-skinny club dancer?  Why not a silent dancer and a singing companion?  These juxtapositions reminded of Miguel Gutierrez show last year at CounterPulse. The weaving in of Pat Benatar’s “Love a battlefield” made sense as well as the including “would” in the title; they highlighted the why not character of the dance and the sometimes struggle to find (and maintain) relationships with others.  Even though it was a little rough around the edges, I could see the possibility here.

Gen, Ryan, Inez, Dylan, Salome, or Quinn, hers and hers

The literal and metaphorical unpacking in this piece was very particular, but at the same time universal as a narrative of perfection and “in control” was read (and danced).  With the addition of song refrains like “you don’t own me,” the danced asked the audience to fill in the blanks, to supply the cultural assumptions about what makes (or marks) identity, which linked the dancing, narrative, and music.  Like Dolly would, I could sense the thinking in this piece.

Cora, Under and Above, Marika Brussel

The dance world needs more female ballet choreographers, and more female choreographers in general.  There is an on-going conversation out there that I will write about later as lately I’ve been spending a good deal of time watching the San Francisco Ballet.  So watching Brussel’s piece is complicated for me.  While the pieces by hers and hers and Grimball were thinking through or with ideas, Brussel’s piece didn’t articulate the same level of thinking.  I kept trying to figure out what I was watching – why did it matter?

Myth of the Manta, Amelia Uzategui Bonilla

Bonilla’s piece seemed to matter, but more to her than the audience.  I appreciated learning about the textile she used in the dance: “A Cusquerñan textile is the starting point for a ritual honoring the evolving stories of growing up within immigrant culture.”  I had hard time connecting with it, and I’m not sure why.  More story?  Less textile?  

weather // body, Arletta Anderson & Adam Smith

Anderson and Smith created an atmosphere of light and play with their piece.  Their particular mix of wit (sound, text, movement, & light) led me to think about different kinds of illumination that reveal and conceal our perspectives of events, stories, places, etc.

Motion Picture, Helen Wicks

Another piece of more or less.  Choreography that sits between extremes can work. This was not the case with Motion Picture, it’s aesthetic seemed obscured, not illuminated enough toward one extreme or another.  More camp?  Less reference?  Wicks’ idea to the use of movie scores from 1940-1969 has potential, however.

April 7th, “Program 7”

San Francisco Ballet, choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Justin Peck, and George Balanchine

Watching Dance with Dad

Some of my earliest memories of watching dance are with my Dad.  The most vivid was seeing Pilobolus Dance Theater when I was about 13 or 14.  At the time, it was the “newest” kind of dance I had ever experienced.  The dancers slid across a wet stage for their curtain call; they were mostly naked.  It was odd, and I loved it.  As a ballet dancer in training, I didn’t know dance could be so big and different.

So when my Dad came to visit in April and mentioned that he really wanted to see the ballet, we ended up at the San Francisco Opera House for Program 7.  My Dad is an artist – although he might not call himself that – so he sees movement differently and notices relationships between moods, colors, and music that I might tend to ignore while watching dance.  It was fun to notice how my perspectives on the 3 dances moved the more my Dad and I talked about the pieces we saw.

File_002 (5)

 

My Dad really liked Christopher Wheeldon’s Continuum – there was something there to relate to.  Maybe it was the clean stage and lighting or the way the choreography embodied the music.  There was an ease to the dancing that made its abstractness relatable, the “art” in the dance.  In the program notes, Wheeldon states that “audience’s shouldn’t just be entertained.  They should be challenged.”  While I can’t say for sure whether or not I was challenged by Continuum.  I did enjoy watching it with my Dad; he didn’t shy away from bursts of happy.

People are talking about Justin Peck’s, In the Countenance of Kings.  Even Vanity Fair has something to say or rather ask: “Is Justin Peck Making Ballet Cool Again?”  I’m not sure how I would answer this question, but it seems to imply that there is something “uncool” about ballet or maybe that ballet is, as Jennifer Homans claimed in her 2010 book Apollo’s Angels, dying.  Does Peck’s  growing popularity serve as a refutation this claim?   

Underneath the question posed by Vanity Fair is a fear – or the perception of a fear – that ballet is becoming irrelevant or less relatable to our present moment, which begs the question: Is In the Countenance of Kings relevant?  How does it matter?

In the program notes Peck states, “it’s not a narrative, but it’s like a semi-story.”  There is a protagonist, foil, and hero.  The corps de ballet is “the school of thought” and there are three others, Quantus, Electress, Botanica.  I’m not sure the names of the “semi-story” matter, but should they?  In the Countenance of Kings is a “semi-story” of a present moment that is “cinematic” with “freeze-frame kodak moments.”  There is a relatable surface here, but it is just that, a surface that is just skimming the possible and ways of perceiving the possible.  I want Peck to be more than “be cool,” and I want this dance to matter more because I truly like how Peck cuts the stage with his choreography.  For the record, my Dad only liked the second ½ of this dance.

Last on the program was Balanchine’s Theme and Variations.  My Dad really liked this piece – the tutus, the symmetry, the classical lines – I wasn’t surprised.  The woman sitting next me asked her partner if they could leave: “Oh god, not Theme and Variations.”  This begs the question: is Theme and Variations relevant? How does it matter?  For me, it was enough that my Dad enjoyed the dance – it mattered enough at the moment.   

Thanks Dad.

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.  

February 4th, “Program 2”

San Francisco Ballet, choreography by George Balanchine, Mark Morris, Liam Scarlett

Back to the SF Opera House.

File_000 (13)

I saw two San Francisco Ballet programs last season – both full length pieces (Giselle and Schokovitch Trilogy).  I didn’t write much about the dancing in either ballet.   This year started I with a mixed repertory program: Rubies (Balanchine), Drink to me with Thine Eyes (Morris), and Fearless Creatures (Scarlett).   I rather enjoyed “the whole” of the evening; it was nicely curated.  The pieces were abstractly similar even if they come out of different times and represent different aesthetics.  I got a little nostalgic with Rubies (1967) – some Balanchine choreography can do that to me.  Learning and performing Concerto Barocoo back in 1987/1988 was an incredible experience, and sometimes when I watch Balanchine’s choreography I enjoy (and appreciate) the work happening on stage.   I got a little dreamy watching Drink to me with Thine Eyes (1987).  There was buzz about Fearless Creatures (2015); I heard a rumor about standing ovations.  I watched a lot of creature in this piece but wanted more fearless.  A quick read through the program notes confirmed this observation: “anti-venom to the fairies;” “synergy within them (the dancers) as a pack;” “something prowling.”  I think our world needs more fearless right now, but I also understand and appreciate time spent in the beauty and wonder of a dance.  “Program 2” was a pleasant surprise, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that the next SF Ballet program will be just as tight and maybe a little more fearless.

December 11th, “15 Years of Gravity”

Choreographed by Jess Curtis with conspirators Claire Cunningham (Scotland) and Jörg Müller (France).

There was talking to the audience, thank you Jess Curtis.

I had a hard time finding time to write this response so this might be a bit scattered.   I wasn’t worried about the chairs scattered over the performance space (reminded me of a William Forsythe piece I saw in Dresden Germany in 2011).  And I wasn’t worried about participating in the perspective “game” during  The Way You Look (at me) Tonight.  I did get worried when I read that the running time for Performance Research Experiment #1 was “totally up to you.”  This piece was about engagement.  The audience was asked to participate by verbally acknowledging when they became less engaged by the different sequences of virtuosity – interesting!   I question whether these sequences were really virtuosic (throwing balls from behind a curtain?).  Unfortunately, the audience turned the experiment into a game, and I quickly became irritated.   I didn’t need to see the excerpt from The Dance that Documents Itself, but loved the “dancing” in Mobile and the lovely singing by Cunningham at the very end.  It was a beautiful ending, and I didn’t mind staying out later than normal.

November 8th “Talk the Walk”

Part of Hope Mohr Dance; Bridge Project, Rewriting Dance

A few preliminaries:

  1. The full title: “Talk the Walk: Local Artists at the Intersection of Language and Dance
  2. I also went to the Jennifer Durning Workshop 11/7 and 11/8
  3. I am scrambling to write this before I see my next performance

Sticking to the theme of “writing about everything I see”:

Bear Writes an Equation about Death, Maureen Whiting

More bears!  

Movement Studies for Splinters in our Ankles, Gerald Casel

Not sure about this one.

minifesto, Hope Mohr

More please (pun kind-of intended).

Breath Catalog Curio #8a (Fragment: Pre-articulation), Megan Nicely

More dancing!

Still Life No 1 (excerpt), Lauren Simpson and Jenny Stulberg

Be still my heart!  I was go giddy; I have now seen all three.  I loved all 3 and want to see them all again.

untitled, Mauryr Kerr

Not sure about this one either.

An afterthought: My responses here are not isolated by any means.  The two days of working with Jeanine Durning facilitated a number of conversations and embodied experiences that culminated in the seeing of these pieces.  I arrived alone to the theater, but I was not alone.  There was a sense of community that had built up over the two days and I could sense it all around me.  As I sat and watched, I felt attended to as an audience member.  “The whole” resonated much more than the individual parts.