Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Bridge Project 2014

presented by Hope Mohr Dance
in association with the Joe Goode Annex, San Francisco
September 27th, 2014

Hope Mohr Dance’s 2014 Bridge Project was a phenomenal celebration of West Coast post-modern dance, bringing together four powerhouse choreographers in a single program – Anna Halprin, Simone Forti, Lucinda Childs and Hope Mohr. Subtitled “Have We Come A Long Way, Baby?”, the evening provided a holistic encounter with post-modernism. The history and lineage of the genre was definitely there, but at the same time, this was a live, in person and real-time experience with post-modern movement, physicality and composition.

Legendary post-modern icon Anna Halprin kicked off the event performing in her 1999 dance, “The Courtesan and the Crone”. Donning a floor-length gold jacket and an ornate mask, Halprin (at ninety-four) demonstrated with this short work the transformative power of costuming. The articulation of her hands, shoulders and head were so subtle, though striking, and gave the piece a light, humorous, almost flirty sense. But at the end, Halprin took off the mask and the cloak, and an intense angst was revealed. Up until this point, the pain and suffering had been completely hidden behind the costume and mask, again speaking to how non-dance theatrical elements have the ability to drastically alter circumstance and situation.

Simone Forti followed in her “News Animation”, a structured improvisation of text and physicality. Forti spoke throughout the performance, making both small and big pronouncements, and the accompanying movement that developed seemed informed by these statements, observations and thoughts. Pathways abounded – straight, back and forth, circular, fragmented. Levels changed; directions shifted and dynamics ranged from forceful to quiet. And even in the midst of her improvisation, you could tell that Forti was searching for connectivity between ideas and existence at that exact moment, in this particular space.

Next up was Hope Mohr performing in Lucinda Childs’ “Carnation”, a work from 1964 that sought to re-imagine and explore the possibilities of everyday, familiar items. A trash bag was a shoe, a colander was a hat, sponges combined with foam cylinders to make a sandwich. But the most interesting aspect of “Carnation” is the multiple reactions that it evokes. As these objects were presented in their various odd visual manifestations, the audience laughed at the absurdity and ridiculousness. But for me, the piece isn’t funny at all; it is actually a deep comment on expectations, preconceptions and pretense versus reality.

Pictured: Peiling Kao in Hope Mohr's "s(oft is) hard"
Photo: Margo Moritz
Closing the program was the premiere of Mohr’s “s(oft is) hard”, danced by Peiling Kao and inspired by Mohr’s personal journals as well as her own past experience of journaling (she shared this with the audience in the program notes). Ben Juodvalkis’ score combined writing sounds, some occasional musical interludes and what I assume was Mohr’s voice reciting dates, the first from 1945 and the last, the present date. An internal, personal journey unfolded on the stage (and was simultaneously projected on the back wall), the movement accumulating from very small reflexive adjustments to large rolling and diving sequences. The interesting question here was one of context. We were watching a physical monologue but it was someone else’s story - one that we had no unique insight into or understanding of. Were the dates in the soundscore random? Were the movement choices representing something that happened on those specific dates? Or was there no direct correlation at all between the dates and the dance? The context was uncertain, it wasn’t easy to figure it out, and that was great.

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