Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Preview - No Strings Attached Dance Company

Dante Alabastro and Alyse Romano in Edifice: Breaking Walls
Photo: Lissa Resnick
A Busy Fall For No Strings Attached Dance Company

Developed as part of the Resident Artist Workshop (RAW) program at SAFEhouse Arts in 2017, Edifice: Breaking Walls is all about asking questions. From challenging the perimeters of performance spaces to upending the relationship between performer and audience to expanding and deepening collaborative processes, Edifice seeks after new understanding. Textural dimensions abound throughout. Natural materials like wool, fiber, paper, canvas and cloth interact with texturally diverse choreography. Delicate petit allegro – wispy glissades, sissones, pas de chats and beaten jetés – meet task-based, gestural phrases and pedestrian running. Turned out extensions are broken into flexion by the lightest, most subtle impulse. Dancers on pointe and dancers in flat shoes perform side by side. And the partnering sequences toggle between traditional pas de deux and unconventional points of contact, like the top of the head.

As the lights rose on Type None, performed at West Wave Dance Festival 25 last September at Z Space, a young boy sits at a table stage right demonstrating the procedures associated with insulin injections – a tedious, painful, relentless reality of life with diabetes. On the other side, a male dancer turns in repeated fouettés before moving about the stage in an expansive, lush solo full of extensions, spins and batterie. Voices of children affected by the disease ring through the air as solos, duets, trios and full ensemble statements unfold. Early on, the boy rises from his chair, joining in a repeated port de bras sequence. Later he pushes and pulls the dancers out of the way, exerting will and control. At other moments, he sits center stage, silent and still, mesmerized by the movement. Is he watching a representation of the cells within his body? Is he imagining freedom from constraint? Is he picturing himself at different points in his life?     

While two very distinct dance works, Edifice: Breaking Walls and Type None share a number of commonalities. Each performance work is informed by curiosity and discovery, a deep desire to look beyond held assumptions through rigorous creative exploration. Both will have another life this coming fall, at separate events the weekend of October 13th-15th. And they are both conceived and composed by choreographer Lissa Resnick, Artistic Director of No Strings Attached Dance Company.

A serious ballet student from a young age, Resnick spent summers at Joffrey, Sacramento Ballet and San Francisco Ballet and was invited to attend the full-time pre-professional program at SFB, an intense schedule of classes, workshops, rehearsals and performances. While fully committed to this demanding course of study, at the same time, Resnick was aware that the total immersion-ness of pre-professional life was somewhat limiting, at least for her. After being sidelined with an injury, she, like many dance students, began to feel a pull toward other interests, other pathways, particularly to math and science for which she had always had a passion. And so, Resnick shifted gears away from full-time ballet and enrolled in UC Davis, pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree.

While these undergraduate years signaled a break from pointe work, dance was still part of the picture. In fact, Resnick used this time to investigate different forms of movement and physicality, eventually joining Bonnie Simoa Contemporary Dance Company (which was affiliated with UC Davis), under the direction of Bonnie Simoa. This foray into contemporary dance would be a formative period, as it would continue to influence and be present in Resnick’s artistic journey.

Fast-forward a number of years. Following a longer break from dance, Resnick found herself in LA, and noticed a yearning to get back into the dance community. “I was missing dance, but now I felt more of a draw to choreography,” remembers Resnick, “I was fascinated with the notion of looking at the world and making my own work, birthing something.” To that end, she began performing as a guest dance artist for various projects in LA while simultaneously founding No Strings Attached Dance Company, a platform where she could experiment with all kinds of genres, including tapping into her long-term relationship with ballet. “Ballet is part of my origin story, like a native language,” she adds, “but at the same time, I didn’t want to fit into any particular mold; I wanted to be more open and try to get outside of that rigorous training background.” Vocabulary-wise, that meant that creating her own choreographic signature, certainly ballet-based but also pulling from a number of other forms. Structurally, Resnick wanted to examine alternate theatrical containers/spaces and work in a collaborative environment, “I became very interested in looking beyond the proscenium, linking different artforms and site specific work; the concept of bringing art off the walls and off the typical stage.” And so, she sought after performance opportunities out-of-doors and in galleries, attracted to mixed discipline projects with dance, theater, opera and visual art. A few years later, Resnick relocated back to the Bay Area. She continued guesting with companies like Dance Lumiere as well as crafting new work with No Strings Attached. “The dancers inspire me, I fall in love with them again with each project, and I’m continually inspired by other artists, visual creators and musicians,” Resnick shares, “and at another level, I want to unravel mysteries of things we think we understand, particularly when it comes to the complexities of medical science and research.”

Matthew Doolin and Curtis Resnick
in Type None
Photo: Lorelei Voorsanger Ghanizadeh
Type None directly lives into that desire, a work that brings the medical and performing arts communities together. Created in partnership with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), the ensemble piece for eight dancers and one youth actor is a personal one for Resnick. “A couple of years ago, my son was diagnosed with Type I diabetes and Type None is about caring for a child with chronic illness,” she shares, “the JDRF really stepped up and supported me through this process.” A big effort over the past year (it premiered at West Wave in 2016), No Strings Attached will be performing an excerpt from Type None at the upcoming Juvenile Diabetes One Walk, East Bay, being held on Sunday, October 15th in San Ramon.

On the Friday before (October 13th) at Coffee Shop in Lafayette, No Strings Attached will be making another appearance in the East Bay, dancing Edifice: Uncovered as part of the inaugural Art Moves Project. Resnick is wearing multiple hats for this event, both as a co-founder of the organization and as a commissioned artist. “Art Moves looks at bringing more progressive movement and dance into the community, engaging with and reaching out to the audience,” Resnick explains, “it’s a public art initiative that will have multiple locations in Lafayette, right in the hub of the downtown walking areas.” After receiving an initial grant from the Lafayette Community Foundation, Art Moves Project commissioned their first creative endeavor, Edifice: Uncovered, a collaboration between Resnick and visual performance artist Marcia Barrow Taylor. For this next chapter in the Edifice story, Resnick is contemplating the question of “what lies beneath the surface; what’s inside.” In addition, the piece is taking Resnick outside of her comfort zone. Though informed by the primary question above, Edifice: Uncovered delves more into the abstract side of dancemaking, in terms of form, structure and composition, and away from traditional storytelling. With No Strings Attached’s strong commitment to mining the unknown, it is no surprise that Resnick is venturing into this new terrain with Edifice: Uncovered.

After this very busy October, No Strings Attached will be gearing up for an equally packed late Fall/early Winter. Resnick has been invited to create something new for the next edition of Works in the Works, to be held this November at Western Sky Studio on 8th Street in West Berkeley. Then, they are thrilled to once again be participating in the annual San Francisco Movement Arts Festival at Grace Cathedral in January of 2018. The repertory selection for the festival is still in process, though Resnick is considering re-envisioning a duet based on Hindu love poems, “the first iteration of the duet was developed back in 2012 and since then, it has been excerpted a number of times,” notes Resnick, “it has infusions of classical Indian dance vocabulary and its main theme is temptation.”

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*this article is coordinated by San Francisco Movement Arts Festival 

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