Sunday, October 25, 2015


The Anata Project
Z Space, San Francisco
October 24th, 2015

Z Space was a cozy, intimate haven on Saturday night. Chairs and couches were arranged all over the main floor, right up against the stage. An area rug was marking the center aisle. A perfectly chosen playlist hung in the air. You couldn’t help feeling welcome, at home and relaxed as you walked into the environment. You could disconnect from the outside bustle and be in the room, present in the moment. And that moment was all about The Anata Project’s fifth home season. Comprised of two world premiere works by Founder Claudia Anata Hubiak, the evening paired a short dance film, By My Side with an ensemble contemporary dance composition, HomeBody. For me, the common thread woven throughout the program was the study and expression of group dynamics.

By My Side introduced a couple, danced by Ashlie Kirby and Victor Talledos, in a household setting. On and in front of a black couch, they cycled through an inventive duet full of knowing gestures and playful interactions – tapping each other on the shoulder, embracing, laughing and joyfully dancing all around the room. They were at ease, comfortable and fully known. The hook of By My Side is that you do not realize in its five minutes that Hubiak is portraying a much longer passage of time. Near the end, a pregnancy becomes clear and in the final scene, a baby enters the picture as two become three.

The Anata Project
Photo: Summer Wilson
Then came the main event, HomeBody, an evening length premiere dance. A cluster of performers arranged themselves up left, while a soloist crawled onto the stage, eventually making her way toward the pile of bodies. As the score began pulsating, the group slowly untangled, rolling away from each other, yet still attempting to make contact with their hands. They reached for members of the group and tried to take on each other’s motions. Visually, it felt basal, almost cellular in nature. Scattering and coming together; venturing out and returning back.

HomeBody’s next major section kept this group dynamic going, but added an element of freedom and individualism to the mix. Lively and exciting movement phrases unfolded all over the stage; dancers forming and re-forming in duets, trios and as a full cast. Groupings were on display, and in HomeBody, Hubiak used these different formations as both a structural tool and a narrative one. Group dynamics change and evolve, which leads not only to interesting dance architecture, but an array of conceptual truths, ranging from camaraderie all the way to exclusion.

Exclusion definitely read in the next scene as another soloist took center stage and her whole body began shaking. Everyone else distanced themselves, standing far from her and silently staring. She was the odd one out; the one who’s reality was different than the others. While she wasn’t being purposely excluded, she wasn’t included either. And the silent stares around her spoke volumes about disengagement and grief. A more aggressive section followed, about two thirds of the way through the piece, one where the dancers were experimenting with issues of dominance and control. While it wasn’t at all violent, the intention behind the pushing motifs and flinging lifts definitely felt more pointed. In a beautiful counter, a touching, poignant sequence of support and encouragement emerged – hands gently assisting other dancers as they rolled; an abundance of counterbalanced poses where both parties’ cooperation was required to make the task possible.

And then, a surprise chapter. The company left, all but one lone dancer – the same soloist who had crawled onto the stage at the beginning. Hers was a hauntingly glorious variation, both in choreography and in performance. Themes of remembrance penetrated the movement: reaching out into space and trying to encircle those who were no longer there. One by one, the dancers re-entered the scene and joined her in revisiting the early ideas in HomeBody, scattering and adhering. And in a lovely egalitarian moment, the ensemble ventured into the audience and sat on a couch, together as a group and together with those who had come to share in this moment. 

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