Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hope Mohr Dance

ODC Theater, San Francisco
April 11th, 2014

Hope Mohr Dance marks their seventh San Francisco home season this weekend with a collection of premiere works. In association with ODC Theater, Mohr and her company presented a trio of new contemporary pieces, “Route 20”, “ridetherhythm” and a major collaborative endeavor, “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction”.

The first half of the program was all about the intersection of science and the performing arts. “Route 20”, a shorter piece danced by Jeremy Bannon-Neches, James Graham and Tegan
Hope Mohr Dance in "Route 20"
Photo: Margo Moritz
Schwab, spoke of natural processes. A melting ice sculpture hung just left of center dripping into a metal pan - processing live and in real-time. Mohr’s choreography followed that theme with a deep technical foundation, yet envisioned with her creative eye. The dancing was strong and clear; the narrative, angst-ridden almost to the point of desperation. All the pieces were there. Yet even still, something was missing in “Route 20”; something in the internal connective fibers of the dance.

“ridetherhythm” gave insight into the mind of the scientific genius. With lab coats, a whiteboard and repetitive spoken equations, the scientific process again took center stage. “ridetherhythm” was much more of a dance theater composition with ample text, song, scenework, and some, though not many, choreographic phrases. In any dance theater work, absurdity is a necessary component and “ridetherhythm” stepped up, from time to time resembling a manic psychotic episode.

For Act II, the musicians (Michael Coleman, Henry Hung, Tommy Folen, Gerald Patrick Korte) and the Hope Mohr company dancers took the stage for “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction”. All the collaborating artists began warming up during the intermission, and the piece organically (and beautifully) evolved from the preparation phase directly into performance. The casual atmosphere remained for the majority of the work – the house lights up and performers scattered around the perimeter of the ODC Theater space. In the program notes, Mohr included a quote from Steve Paxton about intervals in music. And that is definitely what emerged from the stage. At the very basic definitional level, a musical interval is the distance between two notes. But that is only part of the story when it comes to musical intervals – the quality of each measurement (major, minor, perfect, augmented and diminished) providing the more interesting nuance. Mohr injected and worked these various conditions into “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction”. The tritone (augmented 4th/diminished 5th) was reflected in the falling sequence. An inability to stay upright certainly spoke to this interval’s edgy, dissonant sound. The bright, cheery nature of the major intervals shone in the temps leveé in arabesque. And of course, nothing could represent the perfect intervals more than a classic turned out passé retiré. A truly collaborative event, the dancers and musicians played out a number of improvisational and chance games for the audience as part of the piece. That type of ‘in the moment’ experience is certainly exciting for the performers; adjusting to and being present amongst unexpected, changeable circumstances. But is it really that engaging for the audience? In my opinion, no. And while it is true that art shouldn’t be created solely to appease or please its audience, their engagement with the work definitely matters.  

No comments: