|Pictured: Mallory Markham and Jessica Egbert|
Photo: Summer Wilson
The Anata Project
Joe Goode Annex, San Francisco
Oct 15th, 2016
Rain and wind whirled outside, harmonizing together in a blustery fall storm. Inside Joe Goode Annex, The Anata Project’s sixth home season brought a similar meeting of powerful and forceful elements – the body and the mind. How do thoughts, feelings and beliefs translate into actions and reactions? How are the physical and the emotional connected? Can we separate the two? Would we ever want to? Founder and Artistic Director Claudia Anata tackles these penetrating questions in an evening of world premieres, inviting the viewer to consider a confluence of human states through film and contemporary dance.
Opening the program was Anata’s It Fades, a short dance film featuring company artists Jessica Egbert, Julie-Ann Gambino, Yuko Mondon and Mallory Markham. In a stunning collage of shadows and light, small scenes, short phrases, gestures and postures appeared and disappeared on the screen; existing for a moment and then morphing into something new. It Fades, as the title suggests, reveals the ephemerality and fleeting nature of dance and movement, and does so with beauty, grace and an innovative spirit. And starting the evening with a prelude film (as last year’s home season did) also affords a wonderful opportunity for the audience to quiet outside forces and enter into this space and this work.
After a short pause, Egbert, Gambino, Mondon and Markham took the stage in the program’s main event, notjustmoreidlechatter. Mondon faced the audience, while Egbert, Gambino and Markham sat facing upstage. Her entire body pulsed through the opening solo, erratically changing directions, frenetically twinging, desperately searching for an elusive calm and quiet. It looked like she was fighting a treacherous battle, caught between control and chaos. Eventually she joined the other three dancers on the floor, and the quartet began a meditative, systematic series of rolling – rolling through the spine, rolling on the floor. The entire time, they faced away from us, truly at one with the tasks and movements at hand. Through a subsequent set of cluster structures, they emerged from this formation and notjustmoreidlechatter expanded into the space.
While not attempting to relay a story (neither a linear nor abstracted one), notjustmoreidlechatter was definitely steeped in a strong narrative/conceptual foundation, as the connection between the corporeal and the emotional oozed out of every pore. Anata, through her inspired choreography, and the dancers, through their superb performances, were able to demonstrate the range and breadth of the complicated human experience. Circular motions – running in a circuit, turns in attitude, quick grand rond de jambes - suggested cyclical thoughts, perhaps even a rumination cycle. Slow careful walks spoke of uncertainty, trepidation and maybe even fear. Repeated and crescendoed leg swings signaled a haunting, infectious, pervasive belief. While the majority of the material was of a heavier and more serious note, joy and abandon also played a part in notjustmoreidlechatter. Upper body releases sang of wonder and contentment; contact-improvisation style partnering of community, solidarity and support.
Mid-way through notjustmoreidlechatter, Anata injected a repetitive unison sequence, the four performers wiping the floor with their hands, in a windshield pattern. While the movement was very mechanical, at the same time, it evoked a feeling of comfort and familiarity in its repetition. Interspersed through this mesmerizing sequence were individual moments of dissention - arms extending to the ceiling, changes of direction – and then returning to the original movement. A statement illustrating the complexity of group dynamics and individual agency.
As the piece closed, the quartet sat in a diagonal line, feet pointing towards stage right; the lights began to dim and they bowed their heads gently. It was a striking scene, visually, narratively and physically. A point of repose, a cadence, an ending, yet not really the end at all. It could have just as easily been the beginning. The cast could have started the early rolling motif, only at a different facing. The body/mind connection is one that isn’t done, it isn’t finished. It’s a continual process and notjustmoreidlechatter is a stunning reminder of that surety.