Saturday, July 09, 2016

"SKETCH 6 - Use Your Words"

Amy Seiwert’s Imagery
Pictured: Beth Ann Maslinoff in
Nicole Haskins' With Alacrity
Photo: David DeSilva
SKETCH 6 – Use Your Words
Cowell Theater at Fort Mason, San Francisco
July 8th, 2016

A quartet of dancers costumed in cheerful white cascaded onto the stage. Spinning, running, leaping, pressing their palms to sculpt the space, reaching out in arabesque, suspending in the air - vitality and elation in every moment.

Here was a jubilant start to the sixth edition of Amy Seiwert Imagery’s SKETCH series, running this weekend at Fort Mason. For each SKETCH program, Seiwert welcomes dancemakers and company artists into a choreographic incubator, to craft new work informed by a specific theme, question or challenge. This year, Nicole Haskins, Seiwert and Val Caniparoli experimented with the conversation between movement and text, bringing three distinct perspectives in With Alacrity, Instructions and 4 In The Morning (An Entertainment), respectfully. Also joining these world premieres was a reprise of Adam Hougland’s Cigarettes from 2011.

Danced by Beth Ann Maslinoff, Kelsey McFalls, Annali Rose and Andre Silva, Haskins’ With Alacrity was a statement of pure joy. Joy in the choreography; joy in the experience of performing; joy of sharing the material with an audience; joy of being in that moment and with that community. In terms of the relationship between dance and language, With Alacrity took a conceptual and multi-layered approach. The lyrics of Swamp Song with Ania (by Wael Elhalaby and Anna Roznowska) likely brought inspiration. Perhaps also the title of the work - alacrity meaning brisk, cheerful, enthusiastic and playful. I wonder if Haskins employed these word prompts when creating movement phrases or as an improvisation rehearsal device for the dancers.

Hougland’s Cigarettes, the only returning piece on the SKETCH 6 program, evokes a nostalgic mood from the very start. In an entr’acte of sorts, three men slowly set the scene with a table, chairs and a retro refrigerator, which opened to reveal the stunning Sarah C. Griffin and an array of high-heeled shoes. In the brief dance theater work, the four engaged in a dramatic, theatrical and emotionally charged pas de quatre about relating. Various formations abounded, including phenomenal featured duets (by Scott Marlowe and Ben Needham-Wood; Griffin and James Gilmer). Cigarettes is mysterious, atmospheric and transitional – almost like a cigarette itself. An entity that starts out as one thing, and as consumed, its structure changes and it becomes something different.

With Instructions, Seiwert looked to Neil Gaiman’s poem (of the same name), and synthesized a spoken word/choreographic piece for a narrator (Marlowe) and an ensemble of dancers, accompanied by cellist Michelle Kwon. In a pseudo-concerto form, Instructions oscillated back and forth between recitation excerpts and choreographic interludes. Each dance sequence retained the mood and intention of the spoken text but did not attempt to be a direct representation. While the choreography and performances were fantastic, it was the structure of the work that compelled the most, at least for me. Instructions was a skillful and innovative foray into storytelling, in fact, the dance felt like a sophisticated and cultured storytime. Poetry was read aloud to the group, and instead of looking at corresponding illustrations in a storybook, the audience was seeing those images, live and animated on the stage through Seiwert’s choreographic voice. Physical shapes of geometrical poetry, marked by a mystical ambience and cemented by Marlowe’s commanding presence.

Closing SKETCH 6 – Use Your Words was Caniparoli’s 4 In The Morning (An Entertainment), a humorous full cast suite, scored by William Walton’s Façade and Edith Sitwell’s poetry. A digital clock was projected on the upstage left curtain, beginning at midnight and ending at four in the morning, as per the title. Throughout the dance, the timestamp progressed within that four-hour period and a number of different vignettes accompanied each new point in time - solos, trios, pas de deuxs. At 1:49, Caniparoli choreographed a hilarious Celtic solo (danced by Marlowe); a compilation of traditional reel and sword dance with some disco club motifs mixed in. From 3:02-3:22, Rose and Rachel Furst cycled through a flirty, whimsical, waltzy variation, joined on and off by Silva and Marlowe. A number of narrative interpretations were possible, though I saw 4 In The Morning (An Entertainment) as a dream cycle. Dreams transform quickly from one idea to another, sometimes keeping a sense of consistency and sometimes morphing to a completely different plane and scene. Dreams are abstract, yet narratively based; sensical, yet also outlandish and strange. 4 In The Morning (An Entertainment) conveyed all of that. And looking to Caniparoli’s chosen text (Sitwell’s poems), there is a similar and connective throughline. When reading about her work, you will find differing analytic perspectives – are her poems abstract streams of consciousness or framed in some kind of deconstructed or image-based narrative? Or is it a bit of both, sitting somewhere in between? Seems that 4 In The Morning (An Entertainment) perfectly captures this paradox, and it does so with wit and fun.  

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