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.

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