The General’s Residence, Fort Mason, San Francisco
November 22nd, 2013
Have you ever been to a dinner party and speculated as to what was really going through the minds of your fellow guests? Or have you ever wondered if something unexpected might happen in the course of the evening? If so, LEVYdance’s “Romp” is for you. A site-specific contemporary dance event, the 2013 iteration (held at the General’s Residence in Fort Mason) combines mobile performance, mingling and a meal into three glorious hours. With choreography by Benjamin Levy and direction by Scott Marlowe, “Romp” takes you behind the façade, revealing the real and the authentic. And along the way, there are some delicious surprises, quite literally and figuratively. “Romp” is exquisite postmodern dance with a hearty helping of style and panache.
Guests were encouraged to arrive early so that they could enjoy drinks and hors d’oeuvres in the main foyer of the residence prior to the performance. From the beginning, a chill, casual yet intimate environment was established where friends met up, patrons chatted with the cast and the audience admired the building’s architectural details. Once eight o’clock hit, everyone was ushered into the first of four performance spaces that would be utilized throughout the piece. Chairs in the large ballroom were scattered about, facing all different directions. And once the audience was seated, the cast broke into full-out movement – a celebratory party flash mob of sorts. Twelve dancers moved with equal parts ease and abandon, dancing amidst and in between all the chairs. No fourth wall or proscenium arch was welcome at this party, where the line between viewer and performer became wonderfully porous and fuzzy. Members of the audience were invited to dance with them, which allowed for a simultaneous re-arranging and re-organizing of the seating into a large square perimeter. Then, the main trio took the space, and the narrative shifted. During this long segment (performed by LEVYdance company members Scott Marlowe, Yu Kondo Reigen and Sarah Dionne Woods), the intensity was palpable; the dancers internally tortured. Demons were exorcised through ample introverted and small reflexive movements; therapy happening in real time, through physical expression. The choreography was haunting yet beautiful; the performances, personal yet open.
Next we were led downstairs to a barroom for a much shorter second vignette. Here, Marlowe, Reigen and Woods dug even further into Levy’s complex narrative marrying a sense of hesitancy, trepidation and uncertainty alongside propriety and balance. The low ceiling in this space imposed some very real physical limits that were both well-integrated in the choreography and well-handled by the dancers. Ushered back upstairs into a small room right off of the main dining area, the audience witnessed “Romp’s” third chapter. Three different dancers (who had also appeared at the beginning of the first scene) stood on steel rolling tables, while smoke billowed from the floor. They moved in unison with a very purposeful and exact clarity, while an undercurrent of sanitization pulsed beneath.
The banquet hall served as “Romp’s” fourth and final performance space. While the audience was seated at long banquet tables, the entire cast returned and movement, gesture and choreography happened on the table surfaces, around the chairs and in the middle of the room. Again, thoughts took on a physical form, coming to life in a truly honest fashion. And, Marlowe, Reigen and Woods’ final pas de trois centered around food, drink, community and adventure. An apropos conclusion seeing as how all those present were about to share a meal together.
Good dinner parties are the result of impeccable planning. But an evening goes from good to great when ‘the real’ and ‘the authentic’ are welcomed and honored guests. Those are the events that folks talk about years later; the ones that are etched in memory; that which becomes fodder for amazing stories. LEVYdance’s “Romp” is one of the greats.