Mixed Repertory Program

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.   

October 29th, “Fact/SF JuMP”

Choreography by Charles Slender-White and Lauren Simpson and Jenny Stulberg

I went to see Still Life No. 3 (Lauren Simpson and Jenny Stulberg).  A surprise! I think it was intended to be so:

“This is the third work in a developing series of dances exploring gesture, speed, scale, and unison.  There is no hidden meaning, symbols, or storyline, but if you see any of those things, we like that, too.”

The “music” was live sound recordings from the corner of 17th St. and Shotwell, and the dancers mostly faced away from the audience.  It was smart.  There was wit.  I kept trying to figure out what the “still life” was – the street? urban life?   Are we all too still even in the midst of city motion?  I enjoyed the starkness and the tinkering within it.  I wish I could see Still Life #2.

(I also sat through Spread Thin by Charles Slender-White. For the record, it’s always ok to leave at intermission)

June 5th and 6th, “Walking Distance Festival”


Programs A & C

I saw four different dances, and here are my very gut reactions to each one.

Program A

Double Exposure, RAWDance

The best I’ve seen of them and some segments were quite interesting.  I’ll go see the larger work, but I am still not sold on them choreographically or as dancers.  Why do they only choreograph for themselves?  As N said, “They seem a little too self-congratulatory.”

Pupil Suite, Gallim Dance

I’m just going to say it: I was kind of offended (and shocked that N had the same response).  There as a part of the dance that crossed a line.  I’m sure I opened my mouth in surprise, or scrunched up my nose – did I really just see that?  It’s hard to describe, but the movement seemed to be mocking to a degree of maybe not being aware of its potential offensiveness.  Didn’t anyone tell them?  Am I being too sensitive? Overall, I liked their aesthetic and the first two sections were fantastic.  I’m a little confused.

Program C


Some responses:

K: “that was the longest 30 minutes of my life”

N: “that was so disappointing”

Probably the most interesting part was when one of them quoted Heidegger.  The rest was an utter bore.

The Dance that Documents Itself, Jess Curtis/Gravity

I don’t mind naked bodies on stage, but I need it to mean something.  The rest did seem to get at larger issues of digital documentation, subjectivity, etc.  I appreciated the moment when Jess stepped out to address the current state of San Francisco’s economy and housing crisis.  He recognized that some things just can’t be “danced” and need speech; dance isn’t always the best way to communicate.  I was a little surprised that Christy Bollingbroke mentioned that this piece is a “set-up” for the ODC Theater programming for the next season.  I am curious to see how that plays out and what it means.

May 30th, “Stay” and “Material of Attention”

Choreography by Hope Mohr 

I have never met her, but I love Hope Mohr

I think we could talk for hours about dance, movement, rhetoric even.  I very much enjoyed the show and her dancers. Although her work is abstract, it still speaks, articulates, thinks.  The program notes clearly reflect this attention/direction. The key, as it seems from the outside looking in, are dancers that can speak, articulate, and think with movement while holding performative space and doing performative practice.  I think I did what the program notes asked me to do – to  “stay inside [my] own subjective experience of these dances,” which is not easy to do, but easier with the right kind of dance and mood).

PS: went to Sandra Chin’s Professional Level ballet class and met James Graham, one of the dancers in the show.  We both ducked out during a complicated petite allegro, and had a great conversation about the making of the dances (and wearing that awesome skirt).  During our brief chat he reminded me that I am a dancer (even if I no longer get on stage) and that made me smile. 

May 8th, “Margaret Jenkins Dance Company: An Intimate Evening of Three Choreographers”

Choreography by Margaret Jenkins, Katie Faulkner, and Risa Jaroslow

Last year I saw the Margaret Jenkins anniversary show at YBCA.  It was the first time I had seen her work live, and it was a great show so I was keen to see what she’d been up to.  I also wanted to go to see Katie Faulkner’s new piece, Coat of Arms.  I was happily surprised to see Lauren Simpson dance again (Still Life for Two No. 2) but this time in a different piece – a lovely mover.  Katie is also a lovely mover, and her piece was also lovely. The piece by Jenkins, A Gallery of Rooms, was not that interesting.  The dancers were great – as expected – but the choreography didn’t seem to do much, or rather say much. I really wasn’t inspired by the end of the evening.  I wasn’t disappointed.  I was just….well, just. 

PS – Just realized I didn’t write about Jaroslow’s two pieces, Thinking Aloud  and Evolutionary Tales.

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.  

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 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.

March 13th and 20th, “ODC/Dance Downtown”

Choreography by Brenda Way and KT Nelson

I saw both programs.  In the program notes, Marie Tollon (ODC Theater Writer-in-Residence) suggests that the dances presented in this series respond to social and political issues (6).  So I took this as my starting point, or rather, my point of contact.  The first, “Boulder and Bones.  I saw the premier of this piece last year and loved it.  The relationships between the choreography, music, staging, and video work to produce a high level of art.  It was beautiful.  I am not sure that it responds to a social or political issue, however.  I don’t think it really “speaks” in that way.  The other two pieces, “The Invention of wings” and “Dead Reckoning,” seem attempts at speech, but for me they failed to generate much thinking about social or political issues.  Tollon’s program notes indicate that “The Invention of Wings” (originally a site-specific work at the Ai Weiwei exhibit on Alcatraz) is a reflection on the freedom of expression and Dead Reckoning considers the “careless impact of humans on the natural world” (6).  Neither are fully realized.  There are stunning moments in both pieces, and the dancers move beautifully.  But there was something missing.  The SF Gate review by Allan Ulrich couldn’t get past the choreography – he seemed unable to engage with the messages of these two dances were attempting to articulate.

As the person sitting next to me said, “just because you have dancers that can do anything doesn’t mean they have to.”  I couldn’t agree more.  These two pieces seemed too caught up choreographic techniques to fully bring forth messages political or otherwise.

January 16th Wendy Whelan “Restless Creature”

Choreography by Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Brian Brooks and Alejandro Cerrudo

Can one escape 20+ years of habit?  

Even with four different choreographers, Whelan still seemed very much “the same.” There is no doubt that Whelan is a beautiful mover, but is she a restless creature?   Perhaps, but she seemed held (hostage) by her history.  There were flashes of the classical throughout the four dances, but it was the articulations of her feet and grace of her arms that oozed ballerina.  For me, her habit stood out more than anything else.

What is the fascination (a kind of fetish) of seeing what happens to ballerinas after they leave the comfort of their companies, mentors, tutus, and partners?  What does it matter for mean for Whelan to be different on the stage – or at least trying to be different on the stage?  

In many ways, I was restless for Whelan.  I yearned for something more radical than her hair falling out of its tightly constructed bun.