Cowell Theater, San Francisco, CA
July 17, 2010
Ballet fans who live in the San Francisco/Bay Area are truly lucky. Whether your taste is traditional or contemporary, there is something for you. In addition to the touring companies that come through Northern California, San Francisco Ballet, LINES Ballet, Smuin Ballet, Diablo Ballet, and Company C Contemporary Ballet all call this place home. The talent is here and there is ample opportunity to see it. As of this weekend, an addition must be made to this already impressive list. Robert Dekkers new endeavor, Post:Ballet, gave its inaugural performance at the Cowell Theater in Fort Mason. Aptly named Concert One, this program was an exciting display of strong choreographic talent, solid technical dancing and experimental interdisciplinary collaboration. But, what was most apparent on Saturday night was the freshness and optimism that radiated from the stage.
The best piece of the evening (in my opinion, at least) was "B-Sides", danced by Jared Hunt and Christian Squires. Dekkers' concept for this work provided insight into one character, at two different points in his life - Hunt's adult juxtaposed against Squires' youth. This was fabulous casting; these two men were well-matched technically and visually compelling in the piece. The choreography for the older persona had a maturity in its movement. His arms cut through space with a defined confidence, showing the volume, depth and vastness of experience. Hunt's solo was joyful and jazzy - hopping and scooting from side to side, with strong extensions emerging out of several turns. His was an expression of being carefree yet certain; Dekkers' choreography indicated a strength of conviction. The second, more adolescent perspective, was generally more placed and staid. There were intermittent moments of wildness, but always returning to a careful and restrained quality. "B-Sides" is an important work because it shows that duets do not always have to read as a relationship between two individuals. In this case, the audience was able to see two different sides of one person: a grounded confidence alongside a youthful searching.
The women's ballet, "Flutter", was equally intriguing. The first half was a specific, intricate and detailed examination of polyphony: unison dancing interspersed with subtle moments of canon. Beau Campbell, Ashley Flaner and Beth Kaczmarek were right on with the canon sections, but when they were in unison, they were not really working as a team. They seemed spatially unaware of each other; almost like we were watching three soloists instead of a well-defined trio. The choreography wasn't the problem; it was the delivery of it that needed some attention. Having said that, once we were into the second half of "Flutter", things got better. They were able to focus their group dynamic a bit more and we were afforded some instances of brilliant technique - Beth Kaczmarek's pique attitude deserves particular mention.
The two remaining pieces involved musical collaborators, each of whom performed their original compositions onstage with the company. "Milieu" looked like a picture of social anxiety. The curtain opened to find the dancers enveloped internally - folded into positions where some covered their eyes and some their ears. In contrast, "The Happiness of Pursuit" was an exploration of human movement; an abandonment of boundaries that led to a number of physical revelations. I enjoyed both of these works, though they were both very dense. With all seven dancers, live music, dominant lighting designs and smoke, there was too much going on. The choreography and the message got a little buried by all these extras.
Post:Ballet is going to be a group to watch over the next decade. As this company continues to grow and develop, I hope that they are able to remember and summon the abundant hopefulness and enthusiasm that was present at their first full-length concert.