Sunday, March 11, 2012

"Wish You Were Here...Dances for loved ones near and far and people past, present and future"

Photo: C. Wise
RAW (resident artist workshop)
The Garage, San Francisco, CA
March 9, 2012

The Garage's most recent installment of the resident artist workshop (RAW) showcases new choreography by three talented San Francisco/Bay Area choreographers: Gretchen Garnett, Aura Fischbeck and Leigh Riley.  Bringing their work together in a single evening, "Wish You Were Here...Dances for loved ones near and far and people past, present and future", the four compositions on the bill speak to the important artistic work being created in this dynamic space.

Gretchen Garnett & Dancers' "Activities for Tight Spaces" was definitely the standout piece of the evening.  Choreographed by Garnett and danced by Leah Curran, Jackie Goneconti and LizAnne Roman, the work explores boundaries, comfort, safety and freedom.  The audience was seated in a square around the perimeter of the stage, which both brought us in as part of the performance and deliberately limited the available area for movement.  Choreography happened right up against the viewer and was not reduced or curtailed due to the lack of space; every step being performed full out with complete intention, extension and abandon.  Struggle was a purposeful part of the narrative, apparent as the dancers squirmed within their tube-top style tunics.  They pulled at the material, trying to escape its constriction and encasement, but to no end.  In their movement and their costuming, they were looking for a way out and a method to expand their reality.  Most notably, this was demonstrated by a recurring motif - the turning of a doorknob. 

"Corpo-Reality", created and performed by Aura Fischbeck, examined the meeting between paradigm and the individual.  Broken into three parts, the opening sequence dealt with the paradigm of corporeality.  For this first study, Fischbeck created a sound score in which she defined corporeality and its associations.  I absolutely loved this.  'Corporeality' has become the buzz word of the moment in modern dance (especially in academic circles), so it was fantastic to finally see someone taking the time to unpack it, deconstruct it and break it down.  The choreography that accompanied the text happened in a constant stream of motion, almost an unbiased review of her body's history and story.  Here was a chronology - one physicality's experience.  Next came a cultural paradigm statement.  While a very well-known film was projected on the back scrim, Fischbeck inserted herself into its paradigm.  As the movie actors participated in what looked like a traditional German folkdance, she too performed the same movements (she had previously noted that she is of German descent).  Her shadow became part of the film's landscape, providing a very cool effect.  "Corpo-Reality's" final scene was the only part that seemed out of place.  Gone was her strong comment on paradigm and physicality and instead, there was a string of unrelated material.  These last moments were such a surprise because the rest of the work was so cohesive.      

Leigh Riley's "Solo:Alone" opened the evening's second half with an inventive dance film - I only wish that I could have watched more than an eighth of it.  The trend of 'camera shakiness' is hot right now and definitely makes a strong artistic comment.  And, Riley chose to employ that style of videography for the majority of the piece.  Unfortunately, anyone who suffers from motion sickness (like I do) cannot watch that 'filmed shakiness', and so, I missed almost the whole thing.  The one exception, and really the only part of "Solo:Alone" that I saw, was the motion capture section of the film.  Here, Riley pieced together individual shots of her moving within a home space.  It was a really stunning -  giving the impression that she was floating both on the set and on the screen.  Towards the end of "Solo:Alone" Riley began dancing onstage in front of her film, superimposing her present self into her filmed self.  Again, I wanted to see the choreography, but the video was still shaking so I missed it.

The delightfully funny "Same Difference", direction and concept by Aura Fischbeck, was a cross between a game show and a pageant.  "Same Difference" began with the dancers putting on various costumes and then sitting on floor, talking and engaging in pedestrian tasks.  Next, the four performers (Gretchen Garnett, Annie Kahane, Julie Potter and Andi Shirazi) took turns introducing each other to the audience - sharing where they were from, their favorite dance styles, various personality traits and their likes/dislikes.  During and after this 'introduction', each dancer performed her own variation that spoke to her personal being (sometimes involving the rest of the cast and sometimes not).  The costuming and introductions had a strong bond, both helping to create a visual representation of each dancer.  However, the in between sequence (where they sat on the floor casually talking and performing various unrelated tasks) didn't really make sense with the rest of the piece.  "Same Difference" has great theatrical ideas, but that middle section and its connection to the rest of the work needs a bit more development.


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