Saturday, August 15, 2020

RAWdance - the CONCEPT series: digital edition

As we neared the middle of the month, RAWdance pulled up a chair at the dance film shorts table with the latest iteration of their CONCEPT series. A favorite San Francisco modern dance sampler, the longrunning CONCEPT platform (this is number twenty-eight) invites a wide array of contemporary choreographic voices to share work at any point in their artmaking process. In recent years, the event has unfolded in The Green Room at the San Francisco War Memorial & Performing Arts Center and every time I’ve attended, I’ve been struck by how CONCEPT always seeks to celebrate innovative physicality and risk-taking performance.

Like the entire dance field, RAWdance has had to pivot over these last months and the CONCEPT series has as well. August 14th saw the launch of CONCEPT’s first digital edition with a live-streamed program of seven short films ranging from thinky to quirky, abstractly formal to narratively nuanced.

Megan Lowe in (UN)CAGED
Over 175 people tuned in to watch the virtual happening, hosted by RAWdance’s winsome artistic team: Wendy Rein, Ryan T. Smith and Katerina Wong. And there wasn’t a technological hitch in sight. Kicking things off was the debut of Eric Garcia’s (of detour dance) Up On High – a vast and expansive film rooted in meditative ritual, duality and ancestry. Megan Lowe/ Megan Lowe Dances brought (UN)CAGED and challenged the audience to consider boundaries, obstacles and how an empty space has a memory. Responding to the abandon Old LA Zoo, Lowe explored the enclosures at length – inside and out, swinging on the metal grates – and though (UN)CAGED was a solo, it felt like she was also conversing with the souls/presences who had previously inhabited that place.  

Post-modernism certainly played a role into the next pair of premiere films: Box World by Jocelyn Reyes/Reyes Dance and Marissa Brown/Lone King Projects’ Self-Portrait. Amidst a tower of cardboard packing boxes, Reyes explored how the human form might engage with everyday items. And while her thoughts were simultaneously captioned at the bottom of the screen, Brown took us on a non-linear personal journey; the movements of the palms and hands, an intoxicating focus.

Stacy Yuen in Wong's Clipped
A standout piece of the evening, the premiere of Wong’s Clipped featured a trio dancing in a picturesque outdoor setting, socially distanced from each other and wearing masks, in fact, layers of masks. But the specialness in Clipped was that it didn’t look restricted at all. Its tone was spacious and the choreography followed suit with wide arms, large circles and open upper bodies.

From beginning to end, RAWdance’s CONCEPT series: digital edition was a rousing success and two final premiere dance shorts wrapped up the stellar program. A spiritual, almost liturgical sojourn, Frankie Lee III/FLEE’s JOURNEYS W/ GOD combined natural environments with flowing movement phrases. Sinuous and liquid, each step melted effortlessly into the next, conveying an unending stream of consciousness. The final screening of the night, Smith and Rein’s Picnic, reminded me so much of Charles and Ray Eames’ 1977 Powers of Ten. At least at the very beginning as Smith and Rein relaxed in an idyllic scene. From there, Picnic takes off, evoking a layered, textured conversation between the two. Pairing food and movement together in a familiar container, emotional extremes abounded – from frustration to satiation, sober to comic, conflict to peace.  

Ryan T. Smith and Wendy Rein in Picnic

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