Monday, January 23, 2012


Photo: Mark Andrew Wilson
Samantha Giron Dance Project
Kunst-Stoff Arts, San Francisco
January 20, 2012

The family photograph is a strange and fascinating entity that we encounter on a daily basis.  Whether planned, posed, spontaneous or silly, these images are absolutely everywhere - in homes, on smartphones and in the media.  And, these photos can stir up so many questions.  What was happening the day it was taken? Do the expressions accurately reflect the feelings and emotions of the subjects? Is it a true moment of reality or a completely staged scene?  Who are these people and what is their story?  Samantha Giron Dance Project's recent production, "Aperture", is a physical unfolding of and an unexpected look inside of one family system.  She invites the audience into this intimate space where admiration, respect and truth are revealed and celebrated.

To frame the piece, Giron chose to infuse the music with audio clips of her father speaking about his family experience.  The talking and the music came together in a unique score that drove home a message of joy.  It was lovely to hear and see a family history where the story wasn't all damage, abuse and darkness.  Instead, here was a memoir of love, support and security where both the cultural past and the opportunities of the future were valued.  Yet, this positive family history was is no way a fairytale and still had its share of struggles and challenges.  I think this honest and cohesive treatment of her chosen narrative is why "Aperture" commands attention - it was an exercise in personal truth-telling.

A walking motif recurred throughout the dance, and each time it appeared, we saw another piece of the puzzle.  As "Aperture" opened, the three dancers (Vivian Aragon, Sophia Formosa and Jackie Goneconti) walked about the space frequently changing directions with purpose and confidence; they knew where they were going and wanted to pursue their particular path.  At other times, the walking was much more reticent and was accompanied with a longing look over the shoulder, almost as if they weren't ready to leave and felt nervous about where they might find themselves next.  This walking, whether in a circular or straight pattern, illustrated the dichotomy of moving on - to go towards something new, you must also leave something or someone else behind.  Other choreographic sequences spoke to the complexity of this family system, by indicating both collective support (where the dancers gently and repeatedly lifted each other) and individual pluck (when one dancer broke away from the trio to perform their own different movement).

Everything about "Aperture" is absolutely refreshing - from the narrative to the soundscape to the physical vocabulary.  Samantha Giron is a dancemaker who is living, working and challenging her choreographic genre rather than being satisfied with the status quo.  Take any opportunity you have to see the Samantha Giron Dance Project - they are the future of Bay Area modern dance.

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