Thursday, July 05, 2012

"Walking Distance Dance Festival - SF"

presented by ODC Theater on the ODC campus, San Francisco
June 29th - July 1st, 2012

This past weekend ODC successfully launched its first ever "Walking Distance Dance Festival", a three-day event aimed at bringing together multiple companies, short programs and the dance audience.  Spread throughout the ODC Campus, each performance was offered at two different times in either the Mott Studio, the B'Way Theater or in Studio B of the Dance Commons.  With the adjacent locations and the numerous choices, patrons could easily see a diverse sampling of modern dance in a single evening or afternoon.  The inaugural festival also happened to coincide with the Dance/USA conference (which was convening in the city) - what a special opportunity to share the San Francisco artistic spirit and our quality choreography with colleagues from around the country. 

I took in one performance during this amazing weekend, a combined program featuring two of my favorite companies: RAWdance in "After 5:00" and Hope Mohr Dance in an excerpt of "Reluctant Light".  RAWdance's co-artistic directors Wendy Rein and Ryan T. Smith served as both the choreographers and performers in the passionate and volatile "After 5:00".  This dance highlighted how personal, individual baggage speaks to, lives, thrives and affects current relationships; an interchange of inner demons and control.  The piece began with Smith sitting in a chair slowly pouring water on Rein.  She moved away from him and engaged in a stunning solo, traditional modern technique with an edge - beautiful turned out attitudes and developp├ęs in parallel second.  Smith took over the space with his own solo, with the initial moments returning to the water motif.  He slowly emptied the bottle over his head, almost like a painful cleansing ritual.  His dance was emotionally charged, informed by real fear.  The water had revealed something; a feeling, event or experience that was clearly tormenting him.  Then, Rein and Smith came back together at the end of "After 5:00" for a tempestuous duet - at times clinging to each other while at others, pushing and flinging each other away.  I love many things about this company, but one of their most important choreographic achievements is that the narrative is constant.  It informs everything in any given piece and remains true through every movement variation.

I had seen the premiere of the full-length "Reluctant Light" at Z Space back in March, and it was fascinating to see Hope Mohr Dance again in this work, this time in an excerpt.  Doing an excerpt of an entire piece is not easy at all; you must capture the essence and message of the work without the full choreographic material.  Hope Mohr Dance did this very well.  I still saw the juxtaposition of encasement and freedom, yet, there were also new discoveries, including a more layered exploration of 'assumption'.  I felt like there was a set of different questions being asked: what does a structure or boundary suggest; how does it temper behavior; how does its assumed role challenge or hinder interactions; what happens when we re-purpose an entity; how do we try and control our surroundings?  I wonder if these observations simply came from a second viewing or from the fact that in the 'Walking Distance Dance Festival', "Reluctant Light" was presented in a smaller setting and more intimate venue.      

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