Saturday, July 25, 2015

Post:Ballet - Six Pack

Post:Ballet presents
Six Pack
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, San Francisco
July 24th, 2015

When you think of the term ‘six-pack’, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Whatever it might be, a common theme is present – six individual parts combining to make a whole. When you buy a six-pack of drinks, six individual bottles or cans make up that item. To get six-pack abs, six separate muscles must be present. A six-pack is both one entity and six entities at the same time.

For Post:Ballet’s annual summer season, running this weekend at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Six Pack is an apt title. While Six Pack certainly refers to this being the company’s sixth year of performance, it also points to a collection of six individual items that come together as a whole. And that whole here is not only this amazing 2015 summer program, but also something bigger. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Robert Dekkers, Post:Ballet is a contemporary performance powerhouse with limitless potential. Six Pack exudes Post:Ballet’s uncompromising vision, passionate drive and forward trajectory.

Many six-packs contain six of the same item, but sometimes a variety is in order. And with their 2015 Six Pack, Post:Ballet offers an outstanding sampler with classic, lite, spicy, experimental, hybrid and limited edition choreographic flavors.

Part of Post:Ballet’s first summer season at Fort Mason’s Cowell Theater, 2010’s Flutter is the classic selection in Post:Ballet’s Six Pack. Though not a ‘classical’ piece in any way, Flutter has both survived and thrived over time, which is what makes it a classic. And it still has a rare hypnotic power, leading its audience on a captivating journey from the first moment to the final leg circle. A trio set to two very different musical parts (the first a dynamic clapping score by Steve Reich and performed by The Living Earth Show; the second, the Sarabande from Bach’s Violin Partita No. 2 performed by Abigail Shiman), Flutter examines the interplay between movement and sound like no other. Having never seen the exact same cast twice, each viewing provides the opportunity to learn and experience the constructive depth in a new way. 2015’s iteration ushered in new costumes by Christian Squires, who also danced in the piece, and if I’m not mistaken, a slightly different opening scene. But Dekkers’ choreography is still this work’s driving force – the intricacies in hands, fingers, torso and legs along with the purity of piqués in attitude. Performance after performance, Flutter maintains its choreographic integrity while never compromising freshness and vitality.

For those who might want something a little lighter in nature, Pitch Pause Please may be the dance for you. But this particular lite flavor is neither less-than nor lacking anything. Rather, this world premiere is a work of grace and flow that allows the audience to enjoy the sheer beauty of artists collaborating. The lights came up to reveal soloist Jessica Collado and percussionist Andrew Meyerson together on stage; Collado’s movements and facial expressions reacting to the various sounds. While I’m sure that Pitch Pause Please had a set choreographic framework, it truly looked like Collado and Meyerson were collaborating in the moment; the moving body and Samuel Adams’ original score becoming one. Ringing chimes were met with ringing extensions of the limbs, staccato notes with prancing feet.

2014’s Yours is Mine was definitely the spicy choice of the evening. Footlights, bare stage and an overhanging light grid set the scene for this aggressive, avant-garde, no apologies quartet. Jeremy Bannon-Neches, Aidan DeYoung and Squires played their game of domination, crawling, circling each other like primitive creatures, or at least with primitive instincts. Who would take control? Then as Cora Cliburn entered the space, the mood shifted. Jealousy, fighting and competition still read in the men’s movement and demeanor, but they were completely transfixed, and maybe even hypnotized by Cliburn.  

Experimental flavors are the ones that are being ‘tried out’ to see if they resonate or if they don’t. Reason does not know is one of these exploratory taste tests. A duet that Dekkers made for the Kansas City Ballet in February of this year, Reason does not know has a purposeful instability that informs much of the duet, literally and figuratively. The relationship between the two dancers (Cliburn and Ricardo Zayas) was difficult to characterize. On the one hand, there was smoothness, an ease between them, mostly present in the beautiful lifts. But there was also a detachment and struggle for balance, particularly in the relevé walking motif. This is one experimental flavor profile that I’m still thinking about, but I would like to try it again.

ourevolution (2014) is the hybrid flavor in the Six Pack. Much about this piece can touch the viewer: the tech animation, the costumes/scenic design, the choreography, and for this particular viewer, the narrative undercurrent. In ourevolution, Dekkers has written a physical essay, documenting concurrent states of being and simultaneous contrasts. This is why the work is so relatable. Five dancers spend the first part of ourevolution in a walking sequence. Right away, there are questions. Are they going somewhere or nowhere? Are they walking to meet or to avoid? The sense of distance and closeness, affection and disengagement is so potent even in this pedestrian movement. The piece crescendos with various solos, duets and group phrases over its twenty-plus minutes, and ends with a hopeful note of affection. Squires lays his head on DeYoung’s shoulder in a moment of pure tenderness and ourevolution closes with a final choreographic cluster - support, care and awareness.

Limited Edition screams specialness and scarcity, and those are the elements that make up Do Be: Family, the second world premiere on the Six Pack program. Part of a full-length
Post:Ballet dance artists
Cora Cliburn and Jeremy Bannon-Neches
and company
Photo: David DeSilva
evening next fall (the result of a year-long collaboration with The Living Earth Show), Do Be: Family is a narratively driven dance theater work exploring the chaos and complexity of group dynamics and systems. Whether enthusiastic or forced, participation in those systems is at the heart of this work. Exaggerated faces and a set of expressive gestures (I think I even saw dancers checking imaginary watches) run throughout; their repetition providing equal parts emphasis/anesthetic and stabilization/destabilization. Many of the poses, especially in a featured duet by Squires and Vanessa Thiessen, are steeped in manipulation. Both dancers meticulously moving and placing each other into specific attitudes and positions. The score contains a number of well-known folk songs that are continually interrupted with altered rhythms and adjusted meters. This created a creepiness that totally fit with the scene unfolding onstage. There are many contemporary artists for whom collaboration drives process. But there are actually very few who seek collaboration as a force for change, for creative growth, for departure from the norm. Robert Dekkers is one of the few, and with Do Be: Family, it shows. 

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