Monday, August 19, 2013

the CONCEPT series: 14

presented by RAWdance
66 Sanchez Studio, San Francisco
August 17th, 2013

The most exciting part of any restaurant menu is the appetizers. Delicious (and often deep-fried) bite-sized items; platters to share; a sampling of the chef’s concoctions. And the appetizers are often as good, sometimes better than, the main course.

RAWdance’s CONCEPT series is an appetizer menu for modern dance; a fun, casual and intimate program featuring an assortment of San Francisco contemporary performance. The fourteenth installment invited six companies to perform work at different stages of development – excerpts from larger pieces, complete dances, in-progress musings. The CONCEPT series really affords a unique interplay for every participant: the audience sees a variety of work from numerous groups, the dancers experience a crowd at close proximity, and the choreographers have the opportunity to try out new material or re-stage older work. A packed house, cozy performance environment, engaging choreography, yummy snacks, genuine and inviting hosts (RAWdance’s co-Artistic Directors Ryan T. Smith and Wendy Rein) - an evening of modern dance doesn’t get much better than this. 

Wendy Rein of RAWdance
Photo: RJ Muna

The CONCEPT series: 14 opened with Stranger Lover Dreamer’s “Wishbone Home” (2013). Everything about this dance was vast and expansive: from the full-length, lush skirts to the large turns in second attitude. Danced and created by the quartet of Rogelio Lopez, Andrew Merrell, Elizebeth Randall and Shaunna Vella, “Wishbone Home” maintained a tribal, ritualistic sense all the way to the concluding image, where all four came together, facing each other in a small circle. The movement was over; the ritual complete. Next, Smith and Rein took the stage in an excerpt from one of their current works-in-progress, “Turing’s Apple”. With the movement and the set (a changeable floor design of red and green apples), this duet speaks to patterns and architecture in space. The mechanical choreography and the integration of the apples revealed a series of questions: how do constraints affect physicality; how do situations differ when change is purposeful or accidental; what circumstances make the most sense in the body? Fog Beast’s excerpt from 2013’s “The Fox and The Donkey” was the second piece I’ve seen in two consecutive days where one of the main characters was a fox. Andrew Ward and Melecio Estrella have constructed a humorous and musical performance piece to introduce a host of different persona – some human, some animal. Though this was only an excerpt, it didn’t seem like they were trying to layer the work with philosophical meaning or represent some larger issue about humanity. Here was a literal manifestation of the characters; it’s refreshing when art is comfortable being exactly what it is.

Nina Haft & Company presented a portion of “To Begin With the Ending Already in Sight” (2013). Accompanied by an intimate, personal, textual soundscape, the quartet (Rebecca Johnson, Edmer Lazaro, Rogelio Lopez and Andrew Merrell) began moving in an abandoned stream of consciousness. While not a linear story, “To Begin With the Ending Already in Sight” was definitely about something, and maybe even a bunch of somethings – trust, strength, vulnerability, interdependence, human sensation. Modern choreography with contact improvisation-style movement, this quartet defines authenticity. Every dancer was completely present in each moment.   

RAWdance returned with “Mine”, a second work-in-progress which will have its full premiere this coming December. Two large ropes placed in parallel across the front of the performance space signaled the beginning of the group piece. Dancers entered by standing on these ropes while others pulled them onstage like a conveyor belt (a very cool effect and image). “Mine” still had Smith and Rein’s choreographic ingenuity, creative acumen, and technical proficiency, but in some ways, this work is a departure for them. And a good one. Stylistically, they infused their modern foundation with some delicious jazz and funky street movements: old-school chaissés, sultry hinges and rib, hip and shoulder isolations. The result was a rare combination of sexy and dark, frenetic and controlled all at the same time. The Anata Project’s “659 Days of Ruby and Mr. S” (2011) was the story of a relationship told through choreography. Danced by Ashlie Kirby and Ismael Acosta, the couple was sometimes in sync, sometimes not; sometimes happy, sometimes frustrated; sometimes loving, sometimes angry; sometimes plain, sometimes embellished. Some moments were loud - Kirby’s foot-stomping sequence - and others, beautifully quiet. And as Kirby placed her hands delicately on Acosta’s face, Claudia Anata Hubiak’s duet came to an end.

Post:Ballet closed RAWdance’s fourteenth CONCEPT series with Robert Dekkers’ “Flutter” from 2010. This is the third time I’ve seen this particular trio and at each viewing have been fortunate to see a different cast: all women, all men, and for this performance, a mixed cast (Aidan DeYoung, Jane Hope Rehm and Christian Squires). “Flutter” opens with a serpentine sensuality as a repeated rond de jambe propels each dancer across the floor. Using a host of similarly piquant details, “Flutter” seeks to understand how the music (by Steve Reich) and choreography fit together. Perfectly staccato hands meet scurrying parallel boureés; shoulder rolls feed into jumping fouettés. “Flutter” is a textbook neo-classical dance in every sense of the term; a masterpiece that accents rhythm, emphasizes musical phrasing and moves at lightning fast speeds.

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