Monday, June 01, 2015

Alyce Finwall Dance Theater/Olga Kosterina

Fort Mason Center and the Eyes and Ears Foundation present
San Francisco International Arts Festival
Alyce Finwall Dance Theater/Olga Kosterina
Fleet Room, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco
May 31st, 2015

As May comes to a close and June begins, dance, music, film, theater and visual artists from around the world converge at the 2015 San Francisco International Arts Festival. Fort Mason Center has been transformed into the ultimate performance incubator; current creative pursuits around every corner. And each day of this three week event brings a host of opportunities to engage with the artistic process. On the festival’s second Sunday, one of the many dance offerings was a shared program of contemporary choreography in Fort Mason’s Fleet Room. Alyce Finwall Dance Theater premiered Finwall’s newest duet, RUNE, followed by Olga Kosterina in the U.S. premiere of her solo, Dilemma Part One.

Finwall’s RUNE started with a spoken word intro, a poem by Katalyst. On the sides of the room behind the audience, dancers Ashley Brown and Kristin Damrow recited the poem in English while standing still, and then in Norwegian, with accompanying gestures. Next, they moved to the edge of the performance space and repeated that same text sequence, which would also recur in bits and pieces throughout the work. Then the dance began. A pool of blue light washed over the stage and the dancers looked like they were swimming through the air. Because of this striking first visual, the image of a wave stuck with me throughout the dance’s first few sections. Finwall introduced a number of different choreographic ideas
Pictured: Kristin Damrow and Ashley Brown
Photo: Alyce Finwall
– calm, soothing and circular; volatile and wild; mechanical; even pedestrian. The choreography would be one thing and then it would suddenly become something else, and the moment of transition was cleverly elusive. A completely fluid interweaving of the diverse phrase material. And just like a wave, pinpointing the instant of formation or dispersement is tricky, but the experience in the moment is both full and rich. The mysteriousness of beginnings and endings was an ongoing theme in RUNE, both in the internal choreography and in the overall form and structure of the dance. Near the half-way point, the lights dimmed and the dancers exited the stage space. It seemed like the work was over. The dancers walked back to the center and I’m pretty sure that most of the audience (myself included) thought they were going to take their bows. Surprisingly, the lights changed and the piece continued - a brilliant physical caesura. Much of RUNE’s choreography was in unison and when that unison was called for, it was generally quite good. Though there were a few moments where the choreography’s timing had slight deviations. It may have been purposeful; but maybe not.

A dramatically-charged, narratively-driven solo, Kosterina’s Dilemma Part One was an epic journey of self-exploration. The piece began slowly and methodically as Kosterina rolled and moved through a circuit of poses, all while a band covered her eyes, like a blindfold. In this opening statement, a fusion of gymnastics, contortion, acrobatics and contemporary dance was present, and would continue until the dance’s final blackout. Kosterina’s initial pathway led her to a set of black and white props that had been preplaced at the far edge of the performance space. As she arrived at these items, they became integrated into her choreography, facilitating new positions, new expressions and new imagery. Much of the early movement had a very controlled, intentional and specific nature. Until, a circular black skirt was ushered into the mix, and a lengthy spinning segment emerged. This was my favorite chapter in Dilemma Part One, a scene of whirling freneticism. As Kosterina abandoned the props towards the end of the work, a trapped demeanor took over her character, which eventually fed into a final sequence of jumps and leaps. Clearly illustrating a desire to break away from her reality. Kosterina is an extraordinary mover with incredible physical range and stamina (her solo was forty-five/fifty minutes long). And Dilemma Part One contained some very intriguing choreographic sections. Though for my personal taste, it fell a little too much into the gymnastic/acrobatic camp.      

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