Monday, October 01, 2012

Zhukov Dance Theatre

PRODUCT 05: Coin/c/dance
Z Space, San Francisco
September 27, 2012

In the past year or so, much of the modern dance I’ve seen in the San Francisco/Bay Area has had a large narrative component.  This is not a good thing or a bad thing; it is simply a common thread that I have witnessed.  So, it was a wonderful change of pace to attend a performance where narrative connotations certainly existed but formal considerations were given an esteemed place of prominence.  Zhukov Dance Theatre’s fifth home season at San Francisco’s Z Space accomplished this delicate balance with “Coin/c/dance”; a beautiful etude of choreographic experimentation.  Here, Artistic Director Yuri Zhukov (in collaboration with his company of seven dancers) examined, deconstructed and applied the ideas of randomness and circumstance to modern dance vocabulary.  And through the fascinating one-hour structural study, Zhukov showed how purposeful choice and random occurrence can shape, change and create choreographic dynamics. 

The beginning was a collection of full-company cluster sequences that explored every corner of the stage space.  Some ‘follow-the-leader’ style phrases emerged where one dancer initiated a movement that some or all of the others would then assume.  From the very start, Zhukov’s revelatory dynamic results were evident.  As the performers cycled through this initial introduction, differing speeds and styles of articulation took over, and a simple floor roll was suddenly part of a spectrum - varied characteristics and distinct features.  In the callisthenic-type motif that followed, a similar dynamism transpired.  When the jumpy, buoyant segment was carried out from beginning to end, it had a perky airiness, but when single movements from the phrase were isolated, they took on a slow, almost haunting quality. 

Photo: Sandy Lee
In addition, Zhukov experimented with the juxtaposition of stage design and choreographic dynamics.  The middle section of “Coin/c/dance” featured two men who oscillated between dancing and manning a rolling shin-buster - as one performed a solo variation, the other moved the light around the space.  The effect was stunning.  There were times when the placement of the light amplified a single arm swing, making it animalistic, aggressive and sexy.  Or, an upper body circular port de bras was transformed from demure to seductive.  It was almost as if Zhukov had created and envisioned a pas de trois between three performers – the two male soloists and the mobile light source itself.    

I do believe that the final fifteen minutes of “Coin/c/dance” was misplaced.  About three-quarters of the way through the piece, a very dramatic scene unfolded – every dancer was onstage, performing vibrant, diverse choreographic sequences, all ending in a sudden blackout.  I, and I would guess others in the audience, thought this was the thrilling finale, but surprisingly, there was more to come.  This group segment seemed a perfect and logical stopping point; gorgeous, well-timed and so, so strong.  In comparison, the material that followed was unfortunately, a bit of a let-down.  Perhaps a re-ordering of the dance might be something to consider.

The formal and structural nature of Zhukov Dance Theatre’s “Coin/c/dance” also evoked crucial theatrical and compositional questions.  Was the entire piece completely choreographed and planned out?  Were there some moments that truly happened by chance or by accident?  Were we seeing real-time reactions at play?  These questions are incredibly important in the modern dance scene.  So much so that I was tempted to go back and see “Coin/c/dance” again, compare the two viewings and determine if they were the same.  Kudos to Zhukov Dance Theatre for bringing the choreographic process back to the stages of San Francisco.

No comments: