Dance Mission Theater

October 29th, “The Beauty & Ruin of Friends and Bodies”

Choreography: Nol Simonse with Christy Funsch

A Conversation with Sima Belmar

ML: I must admit that you piqued my interest by your description of the dance on Facebook: “Relational unison. Rising up from demi plié so so slowly. Reindeer.” So I convinced a friend to go with me Sunday night and was not disappointed – I laughed, I wondered, I breathed. Nol was Nol and Christy was Christy and together they were so very delightful. The ease of movement and elongated phrasing was satisfying to watch. I really felt invited into a conversation.

SB: I’m so glad! When Nol and Christy danced the same phrase together, they had this way of looking at each other and expressing different feelings about what they were doing that made me think of relational unison (nod to Bourriaud). I hadn’t seen Christy dance in well over a decade and I was absolutely captivated by her performance. So clear and strong and humble all at once, as if her Christyness were going along for the ride, her ego in retreat, looking in from some distance at the wonder of choreography.

ML: I saw Christy dance last November and was struck by her dancing. A year later, I am still captivated by how she moves. When Nol and Christy danced the same phrase I was struck by the “same but different” quality of their movements – even in sameness there is difference and in difference we can find sameness. I noticed this kind of interplay throughout the piece and appreciated the honesty that sat behind it: we are not all the same, but we can try to understand how our differences might allow for connection or even change. I really enjoyed when Nol tried to copy Christy’s heaving breathing pattern. He couldn’t quite do it right; Christy noticed with a careful gaze, touched him with her finger and Nol melted to ground with a yelp. It was funny and touching to watch the exchange of emotion.

SB: I felt a visceral response of understanding or recognition when, in a couple of instances, Nol touched Christy in ways that she seemed to dislike. A blush of distaste flickered across her face. I’ve never been great at contact in dance, not just contact improv, but any kind of contact. It makes me flinch. Christy’s flinches were choreographed in ways that resonated with me. She’s such a subtle performer, balancing Nol’s more blatant theatricality.

ML: Maybe that is what made this piece so relatable. Its choreography as a reflection of dancers as dancers. The night I went I am pretty sure the audience was mostly dancers and choreographers. What does that mean to the relate-ability of the piece? Would this piece be felt in the same way with an audience of non-dancers?

SB: I’m not sure. I’ve given up on worrying about whether a dance will be relatable to non-dancers. I go into performances with my dance nerd hat on every time. I’m looking very closely at the movement. I’m trying some of it out in my mind, feeling through the technical aspects and trying to understand why something abstract and small, the twitch of a finger, the low-flying sweep of radically extended leg, moves me so profoundly. Nol and Christy made me attend to their movements and to the craft of choreography so that even when I zoned out a bit, like when the brick-laying section went on longer than I could be present for, I was eager to return to their world. Every movement mattered, kinesthetic poetry.

ML: Sometimes I get a little caught up in the audience question – sometimes it matters and sometimes it doesn’t. Putting aside the audience questions (which is really more a larger question about the dance scene in the Bay Area), “The Beauty & Ruin of Friends and Bodies” was touching and funny. I realized that it had been a while since I laughed out loud while watching dance. I think we all need to laugh more these days.

Thanks for talking with me Sima!

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October 8th, “Readymade”

Choreographed by Tanya Chianese

I’ll start with a point of reference, a quote by David Batchelor (a Scottish artist and writer) that repeated near the beginning and end of Readymade:

…and, you know, I think the aim of a lot of artists is to get people to look more closely at that which you often overlook.”

The repeating of this quote gave me pause, and I wondered what Chianese wanted us to look at more closely. About mid-way through the hour-long piece something struck me. Could Chianese be asking us to remember that we are the “readymade”? What are we overlooking in ourselves?

As Chianese mentions in her program notes, “Readymade is not about Duchamp’s work, but instead, aims to invoke his iconic idea of the do-it-yourself power to reshape one’s own life by changing how we view things.” This impulse is evident in the titles to the 14 sections of the dance – “What If?”, “Stop and Smell the Roses”, and “You Only Live Once,” for example. I could sense this impulse in the opening of the dance. The movement of afile_000-25rms and bodies in between three wide “ribbons” across the length of the stage hinted at how the intertwining of parts could be a reshaping or refashioning of what we might otherwise overlook.

This impulse is also evident at the end when a dancer walks out on stage with a piece of tissue stuck to her foot. She bends down and picks it up, looking as if she might toss it over her shoulder, like a piece of trash. Instead, she sees something else in that piece of tissue and decides with a smile to send it into the sky by blowing on it softly.

The music that accompanies Readymade reflects this whimsical spirit and amplifies the playful yet thoughtful tone of the piece. What is also very clear and uncompromising is the choreography and its execution by the dancers of ka·nei·see | collective. The movement quality was robust both in temperament and reach. The dancers never gave up, committing fully to each change of mood and intensity. The dance almost never stopped, but at one point during a long diagonal sequence, the dancers let their weariness show. I enjoyed the subtle humor and yearned for more. It seems a worthwhile sentiment to explore right now as well as in the context of the dance’s message to pay attention to what we normally overlook in ourselves.  How can we with a bit of humor start to rethink ourselves and how we see the world we’ve made?

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Source: Rob Best

Honestly, I wasn’t sure of all this when I left the theater, but an encounter with a friend a few days later opened my eyes to what I might have overlooked in the dance. It was an important reminder to me that I am a much better watcher (and writer) when I am in the company of good conversation about dance.

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.    

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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.