Thursday, October 20, 2011

RAWdance at Orson

Photo by Dudley Flores
"a public affair"
Orson Restaurant Bar & Lounge, San Francisco
October 19, 2011

The modern dance world has always been a little ahead of its time, leading the creativity charge with outside-the-box thinking.  Today's choreographers continue that pioneering artistic spirit with an influx of site-specific, alternative event performances.  Though an exciting trend, it is always a risk - some pieces seem to thrive in multiple different environments while others simply do not do well outside of the proscenium arch.  Last night, San Francisco dance lovers enjoyed site-specific experimental work done brilliantly; adapted to its chosen setting without losing any physicality.  RAWdance's premiere of "a public affair" at Orson Restaurant Bar & Lounge in SOMA was visionary dance at its best.

Choreographed and performed by the dynamic Wendy Rein and Ryan T. Smith, "a public affair" emerged organically in Orson's dining room.  The two began their ballet as patrons sitting down to eat at the center table.  Even with some space constraints, this was an 'all-in' choreographic experience, with phenomenal extensions to the front and back and long attitudes à la second.  The pas de deux included dramatic overhead lifts that were not at all hampered by the fact that dinner patrons were watching from inches away.  Moments of eating were interspersed throughout the ten minutes, which kept the piece linked to and rooted in the space.  Rein and Smith were not trying to forget or ignore that this performance was in a restaurant, in fact, as the dance progressed, one couldn't help but notice that "a public affair" was really a dinner conversation brought to life through movement.

Near the beginning, Rein and Smith took turns covering each other's faces with the dinner napkins - obviously interrupting and cutting each other off.  What followed was a stunning combination of argumentative staccato sequences juxtaposed with quiet movements, mimicking the disagreements and silences that occur in any dialogue.   Next, tender moments brought visions of love, affection and support: the standing lift, the leaning arabesque and the supported sobresaut.  "a public affair" was definitely a partnered pas de deux, though there were also instances where Rein and Smith ventured out on their own; still spatially relating to each other but clearly separate.  This reflected those parts of a conversation where you may appear to be listening but in actuality, are lost in your own thoughts.  The piece concluded with the dancers returning to their original starting position, further reiterating that every physical expression we had just seen was an embodiment of how they had spoke to each other over a meal.

If you have the opportunity to see RAWdance, take it - they have well-crafted, unique choreography, an excellent sense of humor and technically superior dancers.

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