Archive | November, 2011

The Second Time Around: Caminos Flamencos at Yoshi’s, November 27

30 Nov

With a floor especially made for Yoshi’s San Francisco stage by Jason McGuire himself, Caminos Flamencos made its second appearance at Yoshi’s on Fillmore November 27 to a warm, capacity crowd.  It’s gratifying to see a long line of ticket seekers and will-calls in the lobby, later looking down from the balcony to a scene both sophisticated and comfortable.  That’s going some, but this seems characteristic of what Caminos Flamencos and artistic director Yaelisa delivers.  Elsewhere, the ensemble has delivered moments of definite artistic distinction; this time it was good entertainment, and, mind you, don’t knock it.  Flamenco can embrace the spectrum as can its exponents.

Juan Cortes and Manuel de la Molena were the singers with Sudhi Rajagopal on the cajon and McGuire in his El Rubio persona.  Yaelisa arrived in red skirt, black bolero and white blouse, Fanny Ara in a stylish yellow-and-brown number along with Melissa Cruz.  Tall Juan Ogalla made the fourth dancer sharing a flamenco styled Sevillanas and castenets with Ara and Cruz before slipping away from view.

Ara’s number provided a surprising view of her talents as she bent low and stretched far as if coaxing spirits from the earth or possibly strong plants from
the soil.  It was low bend and high reach, totally surprising.  Knowing Spanish
would help correlate the vocal with the movement.

When Melissa Cruz followed in a briefer number her usual rhythmic surge was muted; at times she seemed to imitate Ara’s bending, searching for new ways of expression.

Yaelisa’s solo just prior to intermission found her changed to total black, the somber hue supporting a serious delivery with pauses, passages of arm work and taconeo rendered in elegant black slippers, solid dancing eschewing technical bravura.  Judging from the response, her choices were clearly appreciated by afficionados.

Following the intermission Yaelisa acknowledged her musicians, playing solo variations, before Melissa Cruz danced her major contribution, attired in a very pretty cantaloupe-hued dress with specially designed flounces and ruffles, and wearing matching shoes.  Sporting a white filigree fan,  too large for her physical size, it rendered the manipulation less part of the dance than drawing attention to itself.  Hers also was a dress suited to solo concert, rather than a solo within an ensemble.

Caminos Flamencos will be appearing at Marines Memorial December 2-4.

SF Thirteenth Hip-Hop Festival At The Palace of Fine Arts

27 Nov

November 18-20 marked the four performances of Micaya’s wonderchild, the San Francisco Thirteenth Hip-Hop Festival, featuring her own group, Soul Force, alongside features from France, England and Denmark and  ensembles from Chicago, Brooklyn, San Jose, Santa Rosa, Los Angeles with a small army of enthusiastic newcomers from Suisin City.

Initially starting in Theatre Artaud in the Mission, each year I have attended, the venue has been the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition relic, The Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina, cheek by jowl to San Francisco’s approach to the Golden Gate Bridge. The lobby is awash with fans, all shapes, sizes, ages, ethnicities; volunteers are everywhere, and a table selling the annual tee-shirt rarely fails
to have a cluster of customers. A cluster of seniors attend – perhaps proud grandparents of participants, but also theater goers enjoying the mix.

Micaya’s format has deviated little in the  years I’ve watched the festival; local as well as regional, national and international artists submit videos, now DVDs, as auditions. E-mail announcements pepper one’s screen as groups are confirmed, which can mean visas procured – a sizable feat these days. Program A and  Program B are formed, to dance twice; one day both groups appear.

Before each performance the curtain is open; a semi-circle of performers shares momentary central stage with their special movement, tour de forces aplenty.  Spinning on the head is frequent, the exaggerated leg cross and floor plunks reflect youthful limbs.  The dancer with me mutters “It will be over at twenty-five.”  A woman down two or three seats shouts support to local groups, the timbre of her voice like multiple trumpets.  It takes some doing to cap such prep.

The Robot Boys from Denmark, appearing on both programs, made their San Francisco debut with two entirely different acts.  Program A emphasized whimsy and B with maroon uniforms liberally decorated with gold making for militarily tinged smartness.  Theirs was a minuscule movement of the legs, aided by swift turns and changes of direction; the arms moved like  railroad semaphores
awry with spring madness.  Add solemn expressions and occasional wide-eyed wonder and you got it, a world class act by any rigorous standard.

The two groups from France, Meech Onomo Company from Paris, and Compagnie Arts de Scene from Valenciennes, reflected the ethnic mix in today’s urban environment.  Not so inclined to technical tour de forces seen in US groups, both shone as “bands of brothers,” multi-ethnic style.

The Plague from London returned for the second time as did Chicago’s Footwork KINGz, the latter with their energy, splits and jazz-infused rhythm dynamics, belonging to the great tradition of black entertainers.

San Francisco’s Loose Change ensemble has shown up at each festival I’ve attended, its members rarely changing, but growing more mature and savvy in their numbers.  Clothed in grey, this year’s program emphasized long, smooth slides.

At the end of each program Micaya appears in impossibly high heels in a skirt rivaling shorts without the intervening material, frequently black; She moves across the stage with a hand held mike on her slender, shapely legs; with honey tones she brings the groups back for a round of applause telling the audience “give them some love.”  This year Micaya appeared on the cover of San Francisco’s weekly free paper, The Bay Guardian with a brief, apt feature written by Rita Felciano. The recognition, like a prior Izzies Award, has been earned ten times over.

Diablo Ballet Started its Eighteenth Season November 19

26 Nov

Starting its eighteenth season at Walnut Creek’s  Dean Lesher Center for the Arts, Diablo Ballet danced three performances of three ballets, two new to the repertoire, one a world premiere.  Seeing the November 19 matinee, I had mixed reactions to Le Spectre de la Rose, Tears From Above and Fluctuating Hemlines.

Val Caniparoli’s premiere was a pas de quatre for Tears from Above, danced to music for two cellos by Elena Kats-Chernin, a composer originally from deep in central Asia but now residing in Australia. As one might expect the hints of melancholy were strong, reflecting vast stretches of land with little deviation of lifestyle.  Danced by Mayo Sugano and new comers Hiromi Yamazaki, Derek Sakakura and Robert Dekkers, I want to see the piece a second time before venturing my response.

Of Spectre de la Rose, the reaction was easier, thanks to the music’s familiarity and the voluminous prose written regarding Fokine’s ballet and its phenomenal role for Vaslav Nijinsky.

The period difference from nineteenth to early twenty-first centuries could scarcely be stronger in this tale of love’s awakening dream as conceived by Dominic Walsh.  Domenico Luciano as Spectre had created the role in this adaption.  A handsomely-sculpted dancer, Luciano was garbed in a cluster of  rust- colored petals on his left chest over flesh-hued body suit and something obscuring his dark hair.  Rosalyn Ramirez, first seen in Diablo’s spring program, was dressed in a simple white sheath-like tunic with slits up the side.

Katy Heilein’s solution for the appearance of the Spectre was hanging white draperies for the Spectre’s appearing and vanishing. Both dancers, skilled performers, had to dance at times when the Spectre manipulated the Girl’s head or moved her abruptly in ways a young woman’s first romance isn’t  likely to be dreamed, unless prone to some degree of masochism. It was a bit as if  the Spectre was playing Lermontov in The Red Shoes. I found myself wincing, but the Spectre vanished in a whoosh of white curtain and I was relieved it was over.

Septime Weber’s “Fluctuating Hemlines” was revived from its fall, 2001 Diablo Ballet premiere, but was choreographed originally in 1995 for the American Repertory Ballet.  Weber, artistic director of the Washington Ballet, used exaggerated wigs and nearly Barbie Doll costumes for the four women and de rigeur jacket, ties, trousers and shirts for the men.  Weber utilized pantomime
to indicate the four girls were manifestations of prissiness.  The men were given gestures of compulsive awareness of time, checking their watches, adjusting ties, inspecting trousers for creases in the wrong places.

The coming together of male and female registered signals  of “no-no,” and “you mustn’t” in liberal dosages.  That is, until male and female attires were shed, trunks and body suits revealed and a good time was had by all;  although it seems the gestural traces of former behavior kept cropping up.  The idea was clever, but there’s so much one can do  before the lack of characterization begins to be felt.  One then desires more specificity, which Fluctuating Hemline sacrificed in the interest of generalities.  The cast comprised all the previously mentioned dancers in addition to Edward Stegge. David Fonnegra and Erika Johnson.

Diablo Ballet’s early spring season, March 2-3 will be danced at Shadelands Arts Center, Walnut Creek with an additional two performances March 30-31 at Foster City’s Hillbarn Theater.

May 4 and 5 will again see the company finish the season with three performances at Shadelands.

Theater Flamenco at Marines Memorial, November 12

26 Nov

Theater Flamenco selected Marines Memorial Theater on Sutter Street when it looked like Fort Mason’s Cowell Theater would be closed for remodeling. Marines Memorial is a two-tiered, 650 seat theater which opened in 1926.  At one time it housed Actors’ Workshop before this company moved to New York City.  American Conservatory Theater, or A.C.T., started its San Francisco history here as well.

45 Anos de Arte Flamenco, 45 Years of Flamenco Art, featured the small ensemble evolved under Carola Zertuche since she assumed the company’s artistic direction in 2007 when Miguel Santos traded direction to his current board position as president.

With guest dancer Juan Siddi and Cristina Hall, Zertuche danced to a marvelous ensemble of five instrumentalists and two singers. Despite the awkward stage arrangement with its shallow audience seating descent, the trio and musicians rendered a satisfying  evening. Siddi’s double duty more than compensated Manuel Gutierrez’ absence.

First the singers, Jose Cortes and Kina Mendez would be first in movie casting for their  respective roles.  “El Muleto”,a tall, silver haired Andalucian gypsy, expands a melisma into a virtual essay of emotion, reinforcing the adage that Spanish is the language of love.  Mendez, whose gypsy family hails from the sherry capital of Jerez de la Frontera, may not be quite so tall, but she  belts her lyrics with Merman fervor out of a warmly curved body, her face animated with a piercing command in her eyes.

The musicians bring instruments to a performance normally supported by just singers and guitarists.  The shift is admirable and supportive, led by guitarist Jose Luis Rodriguez, with Alex Conde serving as pianist and musical arranger. Sudhi Rajagopal presided on the cajon, the violinist and cellist were Tregar Orton and Jesse Wolff.

Cristina Hall, fair and delicate like a Meissen figurine, broke type in male attire for an impassioned  bulerias.

The  trio danced an intense Farruca, the taconeo going overtime. This followed Cana where Zertuche and Siddi played with the shawl Zertuche maneuvered from her shoulder with great skill, the covering intensifying the flirtation between the two, Siddi on at least three occasions breaking the tension by actually touching Zertuche at the waist.

The shawl used by Zertuche enjoys a special history, for it belongs to the tradition of Manila Shawls, imports to Spain from China when Manila  was the entrepot between Asia and Spain via the Manila Galleons and Mexico plying the longest sea trade route in history, 1565-1815.  This particular example once belonged to Teresita Osta, a local Spanish dancer of Basque descent, who gave it to Miguel Santos, making it a special talisman of San Francisco dance history.

With Zertuche’s amazing vision, one would hope some notes on the various flamenco forms might be part of her planning for future programs.  Enthusiasts would welcome the enlightenment.

Liss Fain Dance at YBC’s Forum Space

24 Nov

Liss Fain has a reputation for taste and the cerebral. Both were in full view in the program at YBC’s Forum space November 17-20 under the title “Art is Not In Some Far-Off Place” and “The False and True are One.”

The taste category inhabited Matthew Antaky’s Lighting and Scenic Design,, space as measured as a cha-no-u ceremony led by a Urosenke tea master. Dividing the performance space in quadrants with spectator benches placed against the panels delineating  the perimeters, similar panels further divided the four dancing quadrants.  It gave  the spectator formal limits yet invited her/him, to wander around the edges of the dancers’ spaces, as most did, wine or water in hand during the hour-long, non-stop essay.

Where the quadrants merged was a square platform raised on a step, supporting a vintage table and lamp, chair inhabited by actress Nancy Shelby. Her delivery of text from The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis cued the dancers’ involvement and progression from one quadrant to the next. Shelby executed her assignment with a measured delivery suitable to the ruminating quality of  Davis’ prose.

Lydia Davis’ prose ruminated on micro examinations of memory, happiness, sharing – qualities a conventional replica would require leaps, smiles, embraces of the head to chest, protective encircling of the torso.  While there were lifts, partnering, encounters with the warmth associated with happy human contact was missing.  The dancers frequently faced each other, touched, supported or briefly
partnered a colleague but “togetherness” seemed absent, except perhaps when dancers sat and regarded their fellow participants.  It may well be that I believe in clear beginnings, which there was, middles, I suppose happened with the changes in quadrants, and endings, which I felt inconclusive.

This is not to say that the dancers were lacked their chops, nor that Liss Fain neglects variety.  In Mary Domenico’s elegant crinkled fabric off white ending in grey hems, a winter-bare branch tracing up one side of the thigh-ending garments or male tights, the range of bodies was one of the distinct pleasures of the evening.  Jeremiah Crank, tall, lean with sculpted muscles contrasted with Alec Lytton’s shorter, more tightly knit physique, equally well defined.  Jeannifer Beamer Fernandez, the lean American girl type was every bit as well defined; Katherine Hawthorne echoed these qualities with a larger skeletal structure, punctuated with a circular tattoo on one forearm. Shannon and Megan Kurashige provided shorter models of exactitude, starting in the quadrant nearest my bench,
their developpes measured to the fullest. In the distance Carson Stein initially was paired with Lytton.

Isadora Duncan Dance Awards 2010-2011 Season

17 Nov

The Isadora Duncan Dance Awards Committee has announced Honorees and
Nominees for its 26th season.  The Awards will be given Monday evening, March 26, 2012 at the ODC Theater, 3153 17th Street, San Francisco. The Award Ceremony is free and open to the public.

The following are the Nominees and Honorees by award category for an “Izzie.”

Outstanding Achievement in Performance – Company:

The Dancers of “Terra Incognita, Revisited,” West Wave Festival, Z Space

Garrett & Moulton Productions, “The Experience of Flight in Dreams,” ODC Theater

Joe Goode Performance Group, “The Rambler,” Novellus Theater

Nimely Pan African Dance Company, “Breaking of the Poro Bush,” 33rd San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival.

San Francisco Ballet, “Ghosts,” War Memorial Opera House

Te Mana O Te Ra, “Varua Te Fenua – The Spirit of the Land,” 33rd San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival

Outstanding Achievement in Performance: Ensemble:

Anthony Spaulding and Sara Van Patten, “Underskin,” San Francisco Ballet,
War Memorial Opera House

Christy Funsch and Nol Simonse, “Etudes in Detention,” Dance Mission Theater

Katie Faulkner and Brandon Private Freeman, “Until We Know For Sure,” The A.W.A.R.D. Show! 2010-2011, ODC Theater

Lenora Feijoo and Vitor Luiz, “Talk to Her,” and “Pas de Deux” from “Le Corsaire,” San Francisco Ballet, Napa Valley Festival Del Sol

Maria Kochetkova and Gennadi Nedvigin, “Theme & Variations,” San Francisco
Ballet, War Memorial Opera House

Outstanding Achievement in Performance – Individual:

Gennadi Nedvigin, as ‘Franz’ in “Coppelia,” San Francisco Ballet, War Memorial Opera House

Jenna McClintock, “When It Frays,” Im’ij-re, West Wave Festival, Cowell Theater

Muriel Maffre, “The Complete Works of Murial Maffre,” Yerba Buena Center for the Arats, Gallery 3

Sofiane Sylve, “Symphony in C,” 2nd Movement, San Francisco Ballet, Stern Grove Festival

Tina Kay Bohnstedt, “Lady of the Camellias,” Act I Pas de Deux, Diablo Ballet,
Lesher Center for the Arts

Outstanding Achievement in Choreography:

Alex Ketley, Kara Davis, Katie Faulkner, Manuelito Biag, “Terra Incognita Revisited,” West Wave Festival, Z Space

Amy Seiwert, “Requiem,” Smuin Ballet, Novellus Theater

Amy Seiwert, “When It Frays,” Im-ij-re, West Wave Festival, Cowell Theater

Janie Garrett & Charles Moulton, “The Experience of Flight in Dreams,” Garett + Moulton Productions, ODC Theater

Mary Armentrout, ‘the woman invisible to herself,’ Mary Armentrout Dance
Theater, Milk Bar at the Sunshine Biscuit Factory

Outstanding Achievement in Music/Sound/Text:

Jesse Olsen Bay, Music and Joe Goode, Text, “The Rambler,” Joe Goode
Performance Group, Novellus Theater

Jonathan Russell, Musical Direction, The Experience of Flight in Dreams, Garrett + Moulton Productions, ODC Theater

Jose Valle ‘Chuscales” and Alex Conde, Musical Direction & Arrangement, “Una
Nota Flamenca,” Theatre Flamenco, Cowell Theater

Zak Diouf, Music, “The Mysterious Snake,” Diamano Coura, alonga Casquelourd
Center for the Arts.

Zakir Hussain, Music, “Scheherazade,“ Alonzo King Lines Ballet, Novellus Theater

Outstanding Achievement in Visual Design:

Alexander Nichols, Scenic Design; Mark Zappone, Costume Design; Christopher Dennis, Lighting Design, RAkU, San Francisco Ballet, War Memorial Opera House

Axel Morganthaler, Lighting Design; Robert Rossenwasser, Set Design; Colleen Quen & Robert Rossenwasser, Costuem Design “Scheherazade,” Alonzo King Lines Ballet, Novellus Theater

Basil Twist, Scenic Design; Jack Carpenter, Lighting Design; Wendy Sparks, Costume Design, “ The Rambler,” Joe Goode Performance Group, Novellus Theater

Christopher Haas, Set Design, “Triangle of the Squinches,” Alonzo King
Lines Ballet, Novellus Theater

Enrico Labayen, Costumes and Visual Design, “En-Gulfed,” Labayen Dance/SF,
San Mission Theater

Olivia Ting, Media & Set Design, “Passages,” Dance Mission Theater

Outstanding Achievement in Restaging/Revival/Reconstruction:

Antoine Vereecken, restaging of “Chroma” by Wayne McGregor, (2006),
San Francisco Ballet, War Memorial Opera House

Dennis Nahat, restaging of “Giselle” by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot (1841), Ballet San Jose, San Jose Center for the Performing Arts

Joe Goode, revival of “29 Effeminate Gestures,” choreography by Joe Goode (1987), Brava Theatre

Special Award Honorees:

Lorena, Feijoo, Maria Kochetkova, Yuan Yuan Tan, Sarah Van Patten & Vanessa Zahorian, “The Many Faces of Giselle”: for five stellar interpretations of the title role in the quintessential romantic ballet “Giselle,” performed by the San Francisco Ballet at the War Memorial Opera House

Nina Menendez and The Bay Area Flamenco Partnership: for the 2010 Festival Flamenco Gitano which presented two multi-generational families of flamenco
artists from the Spanish gypsy community of Andalucia in performances displaying how the music and dance traditions of flamenco are passed down through several generations.

Patty-Ann Farrell – for her lighting designs for the 33rd San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival a the Novellus Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Sustained Achievement Honorees:

Deborah DuBowy and Words on Dance: for eighteen years of presenting celebrated dance artists with the opportunity to speak about their careers and share their passion for dance with the larger dance community

Cathleen McCarthy and Joan Lazarus and West Wave Dance: for twenty
years of presenting ground-breaking dance in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Dr. James Garrick and The Center for Sports Medicine at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital for the Saint Francis Dance Medicine practice, created to meet the unique needs of stage performers.

Menlowe Ballet Makes Its Debut November 5

17 Nov

With its two performance debut November 5, Menlowe Ballet is off to an
encouraging start, enjoying former Oakland Ballet dancers and choreographers in the evening’s  audience.

The company has a singular advantage for its future: a school closely connected to the performing ensemble; this provides a key element in a company’s growth and stability.  The other key is the choreographic force guiding the artistic vision. With Michael Lowe, the fledgling ensemble demonstrated definite promise.

The program comprised two ballets previously choreographed by Lowe, two brief pas de deux by guests Nikki and Ethan White, and Cirque, Lowe’s new work which adroitly combined professionals and children in well-balanced doses.

Chuntian (In the Spring) seemed a reworking of  his Award-winning Bamboo. themes, using nature images as a springboard for the choreography. With Chinese-accented music by Liu Xing and Wang Dong, it reminds one a great strength is utilizing what one knows.  Lowe’s Asian background provides just the right touch for tadpoles, lotus, and crickets.  For the evening performance guest artists Akira Takahashi and Amy Briones of Ballet San Jose chirped with skill.

The two pas de deux “Halleluja” and “Over The Rainbow” demonstrated the
Nikki and Ethan White skills in partnering and rapport.  “Halleluja” bore
little relation to the lyrics, but its  performance for Paula Abdul’s television show garnered third place.  “Over The Rainbow” evoked nostalgia but the partnering feats revealed the effort.

“Plague”, Lowe’s creation for Moving Arts Dance in 2006, reflected that company’s emphasis on “significant” work, featuring Damon Mahoney as the fateful figure, and utilizing music from six composers: Guillaume de Machaut, Arvo Park, John Dowland, Harry Partch, Christopher Tye and John Cage.  Decimation and Death enjoyed full play and eleven dancers threw themselves into the maw of Mahoney as grim reaper.

“Cirque” as program finale enforced Lowe’s deftness with story telling, this time to  seven composers: Gavin Bryars, Gioacchino Rossini, Scott Killiam, Benajmin Britten, Rolft Kent, Dmitri Shostakovich, Jacques Offenbach. Each selection was
employed adroitly. Also acknowledged were ballets by John McFall and Lew Christensen in which Lowe danced.

Whether “Cirque” can travel using devoid of Silly Sailors and Saucy Swashbucklers or Flying Tigers is moot.  Seeing young students cleverly integrated in a largely adult assignment  is delightful, standard and an astute eye to the future.  Lively, well disciplined, they attacked their assignments with infectious spirit.  Their support to Ikolo Griffin as Ringmaster was for smile making, particularly when Griffin  partnered Mariko Takahashi in a Bohemian Rose Adagio.  With eyelids glittering and Danse Arabe costume prancing, Takahashi was supported a fish dive or two or settled herself on Griffin’s shoulders.

For Maria LaMance as the Strongwoman  Lowe provided several instances to display disdain personified.  At the end of the demonstration her small assistants carted the heavy barbell off stage with utter nonchalance.

Griffin supervised an Exotic Bird Bath before sharing A Tight Rope proving fatal to a young tight rope walker. Lowe’s invention registered the necessary gasp and sorrow; typical to his narrative talent he told the story without undue emphasis.

It was good to see Griffin in a role displaying his line, jump and turns.  Let’s
trust to Lowe’s ability to challenge Griffin further.

Menlowe Ballet moves to Mountain View’s Center for the Performing Arts in
mid-March 2012.

Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance seen at Novellus Theatre, November 11

12 Nov

I show my age and prejudices  in reviewing Random Dance.  Its first of two performances in San Francisco occurred on Armistice Day, known now as Veterans’ Day.  Despite ten brilliant barefoot dancers, brimming with talent and technique, I felt Random Dance provided an Armistice from contemporary sounds at its conclusion and the contemporary capacity of frantic activity feeding  little to one’s heart or soul.

I was not alone in my reaction, fortunately;  plenty in the audience provided  standing praise at the completion of the hour-long piece without intermission.

It also was interesting to note that the four dancers with McGregor since 2008 were women.  Three men joined in 2010, and one of each gender made the company numbers nine and ten in 2011.

What exactly was seen?  The blue curtain rose on a video installation upstage
left in front of Patrick Burnier’s handsome U-shaped barriers. Ravi Deepres’ video displayed a white greyhound running continuously and at length.  Then Fukiko Takase appeared in the setting’s upstage left opening  and the movement style began to manifest itself.  McGregor is enamored with torso rolls, front to back, sometimes to the side.  The entire ensemble entered with this thrust position before commencing undulating variations.  Arms were given multiple angles, rotations and when raised en haut, the hands were curled.

With pointed bare feet, the dancers moved frequently in exaggerated developpes a la seconde, particularly when the women were being supported by the men or slung across their backs. Against incredibly grating sounds by a cello or some technical device, the women could be seen at various moments sitting or standing in stillness, either singly or as an ensemble. These sounds were original music by Joby Talbot and Jon Hopkins.  Against the movement the u-shaped set was mechanically raised with a panel at the back to display a variety of images, from random dots, to lines, to bird-like shapes. Throughout Lucy Carter’s lighting urged the eye to keep looking and hoping.

The dancers wore white tee shirts and black trunks, midway abandoning the tee shirts, the men bare chested, the women wearing black bras with a reinforcing vertical band in the back.  With the elaborate set hydraulics for the set, it was easy to know where the production budget was allotted.

I think Random was an excellent label for this work by this choreographer, currently much in vogue. San Francisco Ballet has two provocative works by
Wayne McGregor in its repertory.  But, however skillfully realized by those
wonderful dancers, I found Random Dances equaled empty.

Margaret Jenkins’ Light Moves Premiere, YBC’s Novellus Theater November 3

7 Nov

Margaret Jenkins celebrated thirty-nine years of “making work” in San Francisco with the premiere of Light Moves; it included some familiar collaborators: Paul Dresher and his ensemble; Michael Palmer listed as Artistic Advisor and Text plus Narrative Interludes; Jack Carpenter for lighting design, adding Mary Domenico for Costume Design and Mark Palmer as Media Assistant with Naomie Kremer for Visual Animation and Set Design.

Commissioned in part by YBC plus several West Coast foundations which generously support the arts, “Light Moves” opened with night sky hues of blue,
lights sparkling across several hangings moving up and down during the
75-minute performance and on the backdrop.  It made one feel about to witness
something celestial music supplied by Georg Frederick Handel.  That was not to be, as the eight Jenkins’ dancers, clumped together, moved from down stage right in steps pivoting left and right, gradually dispersing.  The sparkles increased until hangings and backdrop looked like a lapis lazuli-like stone porphyry.

Along the way Joseph Copley executed a recognizable arabesque, not quite in penche, elongated and Ryan T. Smith in his saute provided us with a recognizable rond de jambe. It led the audience almost to believe her San Francisco Ballet had left a profound impression, but she moved on to snippets of movement influenced by her Chinese collaboration and the near universal presence of T’ai Ch’i in most mainland Chinese plus the broad, grounded second position plies seen somewhere in most Indian dance.

Scuffles began to fill the choreography; Jenkins enjoys the tussle and manage to include in her pieces. A duet and trio showed her and the dancers’ ability to devise quick, interesting changes of direction and movement, arm and torso as well as feet.  Ryan T. Smith and Melanie Elms in the former contrasted with Kelly Del Rosario, who tried to gain a foothold in a twosome, persisting, but being deflected.

In the meantime, Kremer’s set had changed into intricate black and white geometric shapes, intensely linear before it assumed its own little solo passage of wheel like shapes neatly placed against the scrim.  Only when the shapes became imposing black and white squares did this background begin to pall.  When color resumed, there was first a brief autumnal like series of shadings, unidentifiable shapes which were featured in pre-performance publicity – for me a put off.  Then followed more colored forms, amorphous shapes which seemed tacked on after invention was exhausted. Mid-passage words were intoned as if their import came down from Mt. Sinai.   I wasn’t sure whether this was intended or the idea was grounded in the sense of wonderment and reflection.

In the meantime, the dancers were slowly progressing from right to left and
towards the end, slipping away until there was just one woman left in motion
on the stage as the curtain fell.

Many in the audience stood in homage.  It certainly was for me the most appealing work since her collaboration with dancers from Kolkata, beautifully danced and skillfully realized.  Jenkins definitely challenges your mind.  I’m afraid she has yet to engage my heart.

San Francisco Performances presented Shantala Shivalingappa November 1

4 Nov

Following Brian Seibert’s glowing, perceptive October 31 review in the New York Times, Shantala Shivalingappa danced her ninety minute solo concert at Herbst Hall November 1 supported by four able musicians. Seeing her first on the same stage a year ago, Seibert’s praise was not exaggerated.

As she came on stage to render homage in Ganapati Vandana, I was struck how like Shivalingappa resembled current ballerinas in size and profiles; put her
alongside Natalia Osipova, and they could pass as cousins; not only physically, but her clarity of technique and expressive fullness was mingled with a reticence rising from matching portrayal to rhythm.  When an arm was raised en haut or extended with the hand in a mudra, the line was impeccable, harmonious, revealing a dancer at home in her body, with a technique to convey mysteries.  The combination  achieved was not merely applied schooling.

That Shivalingappa is the protégée of Vempati Chinna Satyam is not surprising;
he is the prime guru in the classical tradition of Kuchipudi.  In 1973, Vempati
gave a student demonstration for Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, historically a pivotal advocate for Indian government arts supports who recognized his teaching caliber immediately.

The refinement Shivalingappa brings to this form, relying on many Bharata Natyam traditions and wedded to a story-telling form of distinct details, is amazing. The subjects concern Hindu deities and goddesses or devotees. Celebrating Ganapati, the remover of obstacles, anyone used to mime in Western  ballet could find familiar territory.  Shivalingappa’s description of Ganapati stated his skin was golden and his crown lustrous, but she informed us  he had a rounded belly, elephant ears and trunk. The difference for Indian classical dance tradition lies essentially in the source; arising from religious devotion immersing the spectator in exposition emanating from the artist’s imagination..

Excepting Manipur, Odissi and Kathakali, Kuchipudi as this artist practices
it enjoys a remarkably flexible use of the torso.  In Kathak or Bharata Natyam,
the torso does not move so much. The base remains completely firm, the slap of the feet and use of bells join the sister classical forms to mark the dancer’s acute synchronization with the horizontally held and played mridangam.

Jetty Ramesh was vocalist again; I noticed a stylistic difference in his melismas.  Where flamenco starts the tuning arabesques of sound before the singer utters words, Ramesh employed word or phrase, before elaborating on the word or syllable.  Whether standard practice is hard to know; in Bharata Natyam, Balasaraswati tuned into thematic material like flamenco.

Shivalingappa demonstrated the prototypical goddess in Kirtanam where Padmavati dreamt of arguing with her husband Lord Venketeshwara.  A gold-bordered white cloth represented the bed as she lay in stylized slumber, awakening in fright over the frightful dream of discord with her spouse.  The relief in her realization that it was merely a dream was totally childlike.

In Pasayadan, Shivalingappa brought the program to a close with her sweet, husky soprano echoing the divine ecstasy of the poet Dyaneshwar before disappearing  behind a shimmering white curtain which fell plunging the stage into darkness.