Sunday, March 24, 2013

Labayen Dance/SF

Dance Mission Theater
March 16th, 2013

Labayen Dance/SF is known for diverse modern dance programs and their recent engagement at Dance Mission was no exception. Led by Artistic Director Enrico Labayen, the Saturday evening performance featured eight works by five different choreographers, spanning a broad range of modern dance styles and genres. There was aerial dance, pointe work, dance theater, contemporary ballet, and much more. This eighteenth anniversary season was a testament to the dedication, commitment, and talent of this unique San Francisco dance company.

Pictured: "Nourishment"
Photo by Weidong Yang

Act I hit the ground running with the world premiere of Labayen’s “Tears”. A contemporary work that combined several different theatrical aspects, the dance had an ‘otherworldly’ meditative feel, creating a liturgical aura and indicating the porous boundaries of existence. Sandrine Cassini, who danced the lead role, aptly captured this narrative with her seamless pointe work – she moved so effortlessly from flat to demi-pointe to full extension. “Nourishment”, a delightful pas de deux by choreographer Laura Bernasconi for her herself and Ismael Acosta, was seductively humorous. The exemplary and creative partnering had some amazing feats, including one balance where the tiny Bernasconi balanced Acosta’s full body on her feet, which, by the way, have a demi-pointe to die for. Victor Talledos created a dramatic solo for dancer Leda Pennell - “Desde lo Mas Profundo del Corazon Hasta el Limite de la Razon”. Performed along the diagonal, from upstage right to downstage left, complete abandon was the name of the game. While the intent/goal was very clear, unfortunately, the wild movement didn’t read terribly well. Sandrine Cassini’s “Treize”, a duet for herself and Victor Talledos, contained elements of both contemporary and neo-classical ballet, very Kyli├ín-esque. Cassini paid special attention to how the music and the movement fit together (a typical neo-classical convention), and thus marked the highs and lows of the Chopin and Radiohead recordings with appropriately matched choreography. Daiane Lopes da Silva’s “Chrysalis” closed the first half of this dynamic evening. A foray into dance theater, the farcical piece began with a lengthy prelude – the story of a woman and her toy dog. Dance theater is a tough genre and is about much more than absurdity and randomness. An underlying cohesiveness must pull all the elements together and though it certainly had its share of funny moments, “Chrysalis” was missing this imperative component.

Labayen’s “Awit Ng Pag-Ibig (Love Songs)” opened the second Act with an immediate comment on extremes - a violent beginning was underscored by beautiful music; a complicated personal story included moments of inner joy. Talledos’ “Desolation” was another work that teetered ‘on the edge’ of something explosive. And in true Labayen Dance/SF form, the eighteenth anniversary program concluded with a “Rite of Spring” as only Enrico Labayen could have envisioned, placing the historic ballet in the context of a baseball game. This was a genius move. If you think about the story, it does seem to be a game where some win and others really, really lose. And with this new approach to the narrative, issues of training, prep and how well you play the game become part of the experience.    


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