Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Summer Dance Series - Program A

The San Francisco Conservatory of Dance presents
The Summer Dance Series: In-Studio
Program A – Sharp & Fine’s Miniatures, Joy Prendergast’s Collisions
June 30th, 2015

The San Francisco Conservatory of Dance is fast becoming one of my favorite performing arts venues in the city, for everything from emerging choreography to student showcases to well-established troupes. And each year, the Conservatory hosts an in-studio summer dance series. The first program of 2015 joined two contemporary trios on a shared program: Sharp & Fine’s Miniatures (choreography by Megan Kurashige and Shannon Kurashige) and Collisions by Joy Prendergast.

As the lights went up on Miniatures, two dancers entered the space and a solo saxophonist (Joshua Marshall) positioned himself against the upstage wall. Marshall began a hauntingly ethereal solo line while the dancers moved slowly and methodically, connecting and intertwining their hands and arms. A third dancer soon joined, and after reciting the first of many Shakespeare excerpts, began animatedly dancing around the duo. Then the dynamics shifted. The soloist stood silently while the duet went after their interdependent sculptures with more urgency and intensity. These dramatic dynamic changes would inform much of the work.

Pictured: Rachel Laws in Sharp & Fine's Miniatures
Photo: Shannon Kurashige
The Shakespeare excerpts were not being acted out literally, but they were not randomly thrown in either. And the dancers may not have been dancing directly to the music, but again, the score was not arbitrary. This juxtaposition of theatrical elements takes us to the core of the work. Though there certainly was a deconstructed narrative at play, the interdisciplinary aspect of Miniatures was more about form and less about deciphering the story. The use of movement, text and sound revealed the structural properties of each, and how when combined thoughtfully, they have an unmatched ability to set a scene and create a mood. The word thoughtful is key here because Sharp & Fine’s choreographic team of Megan Kurashige and Shannon Kurashige are always thoughtful in their endeavors, from the collaborative elements to the costumes to the movement itself.

Choreographically, the duets in Miniatures were steeped with unexpected partnering and the solos with challenging extension turns and demanding grand ronds de jambe. Intentionality and articulation were at the heart of this piece and the cast certainly delivered.

A different mood was set with the second trio of the evening, Joy Prendergast’s Collisions, one of individuality and sharing. In silence, amidst the natural light of dusk, three dancers performed their own movement phrase, sculpting the space with their individual statements. After subtle lighting was introduced, each dancer took a turn alone in the space, building and developing on their initial choreographic commentary. During these solos, a combination of recorded text and classical scores sailed through the air. The compelling nature of Collisions was in each dance being very personal, yet the expression, scope and execution reading fully outward. Almost like we were being told three unique stories, but only snippets, just parts of a whole. In each case, the choreography was phenomenally good and the dancing, divine.

At the end of Prendergast’s dance, the three performers came back together, adding spoken phrases to the mix - statements of reassurance and encouragement that also had a healthy dose of dismissiveness and humor. As suggested by the dance’s title, Prendergast was commenting on a collision – when the reality of situation and circumstance is challenged by an uncontrollable internal dialog.

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