Saturday, January 25, 2014

Robert Moses' Kin

Lam Research Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco
January 24th, 2014

Robert Moses’ Kin’s nineteenth home season is underway in downtown San Francisco at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ Lam Research Theater. A triple bill evening, this exciting program pairs two new pieces, “Profligate Iniquities” and “The Slow Rise of a Rigid Man” with last year’s full length work, “NEVABAWARLDAPECE”. Along with dynamic choreography and brilliant dancing, this performance showed that the company ranks at Robert Moses’ Kin are in a wonderful state of evolution and change. The ensemble has grown significantly in the past two years and the newer company members have really lived into Moses’ signature movement style. They look right at home alongside the group’s veteran dancers.

Opening the program was the premiere of “Profligate Iniquities”, an intoxicating dissertation on the importance of the ‘in between’. From the music to the choreography to the narrative ideas, everything hovered in delicious ambiguity. The Sephardic score was neither major nor minor, the physicality neither controlled nor abandoned and the narrative impulses neither magnetic nor indifferent. A collection of smaller sequences (which all worked together to form a cohesive whole), “Profligate Iniquities” was broken into four duets, one quartet, two group variations and one trio. Each revealed a duality in Moses’ physical syntax – quick staccato impulses along with legato parallel extensions. Though at the same time, something different was being birthed in the choreography. While lifts and scooting steps were abundant, “Profligate Iniquities” was incredibly grounded with very few solo jumps. The partnering was equally creative, though from time to time, it did lead to some awkward angles.

Following a very brief pause, Moses himself took the stage in the second world premiere of the night, “The Slow Rise of a Rigid Man”. Though short in duration, the solo spoke volumes. Here was the choreographic source; the stylistic genesis, live and in person. His movement isn’t learned, it is true, pure, almost genetic. With each phrase of “The Slow Rise of a Rigid Man”, Moses was talking to the audience - no words, only movement.

The curtain rose on Act II’s “NEVABAWARLDAPECE” to an unencumbered stage space; no wings, no cyclorama. The performers appeared, costumed in practice clothes, and one by one journeyed to the center, introducing themselves to the audience and each other with a short variation. The third solo, albeit brief, was some of the best dancing of the night, with a phenomenal turn/promenade in a long second attitude. From its very onset, “NEVABAWARLDAPECE” was working in a unique intersection of the modern and post-modern genres: choreography that had been deconstructed to its very fundamental essence yet with a strong and essential narrative backbone. This is an important crossroads in today’s contemporary performance scene. Can movement have absolute merit in its own right while still being combined with a strong sense of imagery, content and the narrative? “NEVABAWARLDAPECE” proves that it can. Though a triumph in that regard, this dance did have a couple of issues. While the intricacies and detail in Moses’ choreography are fantastic, the company had difficulty maintaining a sense of togetherness in the unison work. The group foot percussion segments were particularly spotty from a precision standpoint. And clocking in at sixty-five minutes, “NEVABAWARLDAPECE” was far too long.

Photo: RJ Muna


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