Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, San Francisco
Nov 29th, 2016
DanceFAR’s (Dance For A Reason) annual fall gala never disappoints. Co-founded by Margaret Karl, Garen Scribner and James Sofranko, it has been a shining star in the San Francisco dance season for the past four years and 2016’s edition (the fifth anniversary) was no exception. Each year DanceFAR hosts a diverse group of local and visiting dance artists in an evening-length concert benefitting the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC). And aptly, this year, the gala was held on Giving Tuesday. Outstanding performances with an authentic sentiment and genuine spirit of giving back - this is DanceFAR.
Duets dominated both halves of the program, each delivering a distinct perspective on physicality and movement in space. Erin Yarbrough-Powell and Ben Needham Wood of Smuin opened the night with a stirring pas de deux from Stanton Welch’s Indigo. Toggling between luxurious flowy movements and staccato pulses, this brief excerpt left you wanting more. And the ending lift was spectacular – Yarbrough-Powell in a seated position, balanced high above Needham Wood’s head. Specified directional shifts reigned supreme in Robert Moses’ This State of Annihilation, danced by Norma Fong and Crystaldawn Bell Galante of Robert Moses’ KIN. Half unison, half partnering/soloing, this unique take on contemporary technique blended second position, arabesque and passé with intense traveling sequences, including chaînés on the diagonal, pas de basques and even some soft shoe time-step footwork. Next, Jermaine Spivey and Spenser Theberge took the stage in an excerpt from their Rather This, Then, an essay on articulation, physical possibility and in-the-moment interaction. Billed in the program as a ‘structured improvisation’, I was so curious whether there was any set phrase material or perhaps, key prompts informing this captivating work.
ODC/Dance brought a portion of Kate Weare’s Giant, one of the three ensemble offerings on the program. Mechanized patterns and lush undulating meet in this dance, as does a strong statement of control and power dynamics. Several points throughout the piece saw one dancer orchestrating and shaping the movements of another. Julia Adam’s tortured duet Grandma and the Wolfie followed, performed by Travis Bradley and Virginia Pilgrim Ramey. While compelling for its technical accomplishments, it was the form of this duet that really struck. It began almost like a solo for Pilgrim Ramey with Bradley traversing the perimeter of the stage around her. And then later, much of the initial phrase material recurred, but this time, partnered. A very interesting structural approach indeed.
An audience-favorite from last year, Art of Teknique was back with another phenomenal freestyle program of physical poetry. And dawsondancesf closed DanceFAR’s first half with an excerpt from Gregory Dawson’s Gestures and Angels, a contemporary ballet full of passion, ferocity, speed and level changes.
The second half of DanceFAR 2016 began with a dance of storytelling, an excerpt of Tristesse by Marcelo Gomes. Gomes and Sterling Baca took turns expressing their reality through movement as the other sat ‘listening’ intently downstage right. Baca’s part of the conversation was peppered with suspension and release while Gomes’ was humorous and playful, and even had a little West Side Story snapping built in. Flying Under the Radar premiered @_FUTR_, a highly technical contemporary duet with costumes that reminded of Alwin Nikolais.
Sofranko’s SFDanceworks presented the world premiere of Danielle Rowe’s For Pixie, expertly interpreted by Brett Conway and Laura O’Malley. Here was a snapshot of a couple; a glimpse into their relationship. The partnering had such a wonderful forward motion to it, entwining these two souls for this one moment in time. An emotively rich duet was proffered by Alivia Schaffer and Dwayne Schueneman of AXIS Dance Company in Judith Smith’s In Defense of Regret. Schaffer and Schueneman spent the majority of the duet near each other, but separated. When they finally grasped hands and circled each other, it was pure and poignant.
Sofiane Sylve and Carlo Di Lanno of San Francisco Ballet danced the Diamonds Pas de Deux from George Balanchine’s Jewels, an elegant, regal and grand expression of technical brilliance and beauty. And while the piece does not seek to tell a story, there is a narrative fiber hidden deep in the choreography. As the dancers float, glide and move about the space, there is a subtle elusiveness at play, like they are trying to actually catch the sparkle and glimmer of a diamond. DanceFAR 2016 concluded with an excerpt from Garrett + Moulton Productions’ summer premiere, Speak, Angels by Janice Garrett and Charles Moulton. In an expression of constant motion, six soloists and a movement choir of eighteen embodied the joy, intensity and fervor that is choreography and community. A perfect ending to a glorious night.