San Francisco Conservatory of Dance
Summer Dance Series
July 28th, 2014
The San Francisco Bay Area dance scene has a specialness; a distinct flavor, a unique pulse and incredible breadth. There is an incomparable range in genre: ballet, modern, aerial, dance theater, multi-disciplinary, film, world dance. Diverse groups from long-standing historic companies to newly formed troupes. Large scale venues and black box theaters; site-specific locations and surprise happenings. Star choreographers and up-and-coming performing artists, seasoned dancers and new professionals at the beginning of their careers. San Francisco Conservatory of Dance’s Summer Dance Series seeks to bring this variety together by facilitating performance collaborations between established directors, experienced dancers and emerging artists. July’s final offering is “Sonorous Figures”, a two-part contemporary piece conceived by choreographer Christian Burns and musician Donald White. For this fifth year of the Summer Dance Series, the Conservatory has also welcomed the public to its SOMA studio - a close, intimate setting ideal for a work all about authenticity and the essence of deconstructedness.
Section I, subtitled ‘Figures in Black and White’ acted as a prelude to the main body of the work and was Burns’ contemporary take on neoclassicism. The costumes were deconstructed, simple black and white practice clothes à la Balanchine; the choreography also appropriately devoid of narrative. Ethereal and otherworldly, this highly technical duet, danced by Aidan DeYoung and Deanna Gooding and accompanied by White at the piano, carried a great deal of attention, care and precision. Extraneous theatrical elements were downplayed so that in true neoclassical fashion, the movement could shine front and center. And there was some gorgeous choreography that rightly deserved the spotlight. Two promenades particularly stood out. Gooding, in a textbook arabesque on high demi-pointe, was brought full circle by DeYoung (a seasoned pas de deux partner) who supported her from the front, with his back to her. Towards the end of this overture, Gooding executed a solo promenade in 2nd attitude, with her arms in a high 5th position. Burns also instituted a great sense of parity in the lifts. Gooding balanced DeYoung on her back, and then DeYoung lifted her high in the air in a standing position. A short vignette, ‘Figures in Black and White’ made a lovely statement about the beauty in deconstruction.
|Photo: RAPT Productions|
The lights dimmed and “Sonorous Figures’” second scene was set – two women (Emily Jones and Shannon Leypoldt) sat at a table downstage right while Burns entered from the left curtain, playing a character that was equal parts hobo and melancholy clown. Modern with a hint of dance theater, there was a lot going on in Section II (‘Figures in Flesh and Blood’) but it never felt like too much. Neither linear nor abstract, ‘Figures in Flesh and Blood’ was a mosaic of concepts, images and stories, all dosed with sensitive, though bittersweet, nostalgia. Choreographically, Burns injected his solos with articulative isolations in his entire body, though specifically in his limbs and spine (a bit of a throwback to puppetry). His relationship with the floor was in constant flux - sometimes affectionate; sometimes harsh - and the choreographic tool of repetition served a dual purpose of emphasizing and anesthetizing at the same time. Snippets of different dance styles abounded like he was sharing a collection of different remembrances. A particular highlight was the fast, frenetic ballet sequence underscored by White’s virtuosic interpretation of a presto classical composition. Compelling choreography was also seen in the women’s sequences, punctuated by some good old-fashioned Graham vocab: the triplet, off-balance tilt in 2nd as well as some stunning airplane turns in arabesque. As all three performers cycled through solos, duets and trios, there were moments of begging and pleading; yearning and seeking. And what made ‘Figures in Flesh and Blood’ reminiscent of deconstruction was the personal nature of these images. Pretense was nowhere to be found. A variety of themes were present, but in each, it felt like the audience was being invited to witness an intimate discussion, a vulnerable conversation. Genuineness is powerful; it is a deconstructed state; stripped down and bare. With such an authentic theme, “Sonorous Figures” couldn’t help but be powerful too.