Yuri Zhukov’s Product 4, ZSpace, San Francisco, September 1

4 Sep

Z Space was the vessel of Yuri Zhukov’s Project 4  debuting September 1               for a three-performance run utilizing seven dancers; five men, two women,          some peopling the Zhukov annual productions before.   Prodigiously talented,     Zhukov’s offerings included not only the choreography for the single piece, Dreams Recycled, but also costume design with Tilly Amundson, part of the video work, and five handsome photographs on sale in the lobby afterwards via silent auction. Zhukov’s inventions were seconded by videographer Austin Forbord and Lighting Designer Matthew Antaky.

Project 4 featured third year returnees Christopher Bordenave and Sergio Junior Benvindo de Sousa; second year veterans Kaja Bjorner, Allie Papazian and Darren Devaney.  New to the Zhukov Project series this year were Douglas Scott Baum and Martyn Garside.

Zhukov’s choreography has a generous concept ruling it: making his dancers look good and displaying  their amazing techniques.  What’s not for a dancer to like?  On the flat performing space, the dancers performed in sock like foot coverings, enabling them to execute dazzling turns a la seconde emerging from a pivot, frequently with a contracted torso with arms twined around the head, twisted against each other, clasped behind the back.

In dream-like terms, the men were trussed up, manacled, abused, shot, dying. Yet, for all the extremist positions, no one position was maintained too long; it was as if Zhukov’s classical training at the Vaganova Institute did not allow him to dwell on gore or the grotesque over long; it’s neither good manners nor certainly is not classical.  Therefore, what was seen were sketches, occasional use of males in quartet motion, and the sequences with the spoken word, nothing cohering, more of a troubled mind than a semblance of coherence or narrative.

For program notes, a narrative would appear on the left, followed by one on the  right, six of them, before the unwritten denouement, printed against images of two male performers, some shades of grey almost too dark to read with ease. The spoken narratives were delivered low key, almost thrown away – Katja Bjorner’s was about Seeking, being propelled forward, then an encounter with a man, not clearly perceived, but felt in the body,  a perfect description of the Jungian shadow concept.

Chris Bordenave’s Remembering imagery was a visit to his mother’s room only to discover her face was covered with all seeing eyes, a fascinating cross between the Goddess Tara image and sexual prohibition.

Martyn Garside’s passage held elements of madness in its description of Killing with a cheese-wire, very narrow, very sharp with the fascination of the resulting long, thin red line.

Dream number four was de Souza’s Running, using an extended video of his running along nameless concrete buildings, before Baum’s Petit Prince-like recitation regarding Skiing.

Devaney’s Hallucinating incorporated images of jelly fish projected floating across the large screen.

Somewhere  Garside unrolled a swath of white paper across stage front, scribbling as it unfurled, outlining his body, doodling madly before abruptly tearing it into bits.

Allie Papazian was not given a particular solo, emerging in a short black dress; with its swinging skirt, she moved laterally from stage left to  right with slow, exaggerated developpes  thrusting her hips forward with torso and shoulders almost parallel to the floor.

In a nod perhaps to his native landscape, Zhukov included a woodland scene with Bjorner framed and moving through it, repeating the image of her earlier narrative. There was an encounter with Papazian ending in a kiss; a sudden blackout, again never exploring such an intimacy. Near this  all seven dancers appeared briefly together.

This is Zhukov’s first work to depart from some semblance of narrative; the  rehearsal period  may have left appropriate developments unrealized.  Zhukov repeated visual elements seen before in a new context.  Despite the superb performances given by the dancers, Dreams Recycled needed another two or three go arounds.

Even unfinished, however, Zhukov’s ideas and imagery are something to
anticipate.

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