Monday, November 17, 2014

JuMP 2014

Photo: Kegan Marling
ODC Theater, San Francisco
November 14th, 2014

Choreographic series, programs and residencies are common within the contemporary dance scene. But choreographic programs that are focused on making new work without a ton of other requirements and parameters are actually kind of rare. JuMP, the brainchild of Fact/SF Artistic Director Charles Slender-White and Jeanne Pfeffer, fosters this kind of choreographic nurture, providing the necessary infrastructure and environment for an artist to, as the title states, ‘Just Make a Piece’. In this, JuMP’s inaugural year, Fact/SF presented a shared program of two very different works at ODC Theater – “Stepset Shift” by Charles Slender-White and “Open Source” by Liz Tenuto.

The cast of six entered the stage space for “Stepset Shift” in pointe shoes and purple costumes (designed and constructed by Melissa Castaneda), complete with the unfinished cage of a tutu. This first image immediately (and brilliantly) set the tone for a piece where Slender-White would examine the possibilities within a genre that is still on an evolutionary journey. “Stepset Shift” was informed by the movements that happen in the opening center work of any ballet class: tendus, port de bras, temps lie. These fundamental steps establish the positions of the body and the shifting of weight, and are a necessary foundation for the more complicated exercises that follow. In “Stepset Shift”, Slender-White took these steps in a different direction and utilized them as a point of discovery. His ├ępaulement progressed into off-center upper body motions; classical bourre├ęs simultaneously co-existed with contemporary combinations. “Stepset Shift” was not a condemnation of classical dance, nor was it critical. Instead, Slender-White was using the oeuvre in a wonderfully experimental light, and in doing so, uncovering new physical possibilities.

Following intermission, JuMP 2014 continued with Liz Tenuto’s “Open Source”, a contemporary performance mosaic of delightfully weird extremes, ranging from calm to total hysteria. In “Open Source”, the Fact/SF company dancers became a rag-tag band of purposefully neurotic characters. Opening with a robotic unison sequence reminiscent of old-school aerobics, it looked like a group of modern-day hipsters had found their way back in time to the 1980s. Polar extremes were rooted within this first choreographic sequence as moments of high energy fed into complete relaxation. This theme continued throughout – a particularly clever iteration was when Parker Murphy was dancing to his own soundtrack, while the five women ignored him and broodingly sat eating at a table. And after some additional hyper vignettes, “Open Source” closed with the ensemble huddled together in a very affectionate, tender and intimate moment. While the conceptual framework of extremes was very apparent in Tenuto’s piece, there was also a larger narrative at play in “Open Source”. But at a single viewing, making a connection with that overarching idea/story was a challenge.    

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