MPD’s Angel Wings in Motion

15 Jun

A recent  Face Book invitation came my way from Muriel Maffre, San Francisco Ballet’s retired principal dancer turned executive director of the Museum of Performance and Design, to accompany white wings glistening at their tips from MPD’s former location to its new one on Folsom, 893 to be exact.  The wings, an MPD acquisition from “Angels in America,” were being transported on Patricia Kelleher’s back; Kelleher is a San Francisco Ballet trainee who will join the National Ballet of Portugal in September.  How widespread the posting was, I don’t know but, as a Maffre invitation, I didn’t want to miss it.

The call was for noon on Thursday, June 13; thanks to a brief flub on the #5 Fulton, I arrived on the bus at Van Ness, just as Maffre; Kirsten Tanaka, Librarian/Archivist; Elyse Eng, MPD’s president, and Supriva Wroncieviez, San Francisco Ballet’  Archivist, were crossing the street in my direction accompanying the wing bearer, who was moving with an unconscious deliberation, evoking the Louvre’s Winged Victory at Samothrace.

Kelleher, in white with MPD’s new location emblazoned in gold on her tee-shirt, balanced the wings strapped to her back with two blue metallic pieces down her back, bracing both bulk, spread  and weight of the attachment.  Further down the sidewalk, Benjamin Pierce, in shorts and tee, was manipulating a small video camera, turning it on and off to husband the battery power.

“You’re all right with this?” Muriel inquired, “It’s 1.9 miles.”  “I’m here,” I replied, winding up walking up and back a full extra block.

Our path led us along the north side of City Hall, across to the central part of the City Square, where a newly wed couple asked to be photographed with the angel.  Then it was across to the north side of the Public Library’s Main Branch where men dosed in the noon-day sun or hunched on the grass.  The entourage crossed over to the United Nations Plaza where crafts are sold on Thursdays, eastward towards Market and Seventh Street.

It was fascinating to observe who questioned Patricia and who didn’t, ignoring the phenomenon of the obviously well- trained young dancer sporting wings sauntering on the mild, sunny San Francisco mid-day.  As we crossed the Plaza towards the end where the water spewing like momentary flights of fancy, it was the street people who asked, exclaiming, “An angel, just what I needed.”  “Can I hug you?”.  Every so often, the wings would be spread and Patricia would hold the bottoms while Benjamin recorded her against some background.

As we progressed, Muriel, Kirsten and Elyse occasionally used their cell phones to snap stills.  Walking along the north side of Market between Seventh and Sixth a grey haired, rotund woman passed us, eyes unswerving in front of her, pushing a red market basket.  The middle of its front bore the metallic plaque ‘angel,” but there was no chance to stop her march for a photo op.

Reaching Powell and Market, Benjamin had Patricia move across the turning of a cable car, and several pedestrians stopped her. The men playing chess on the public tables ignored her.  We crossed over to enter Bloomingdale’s, where two older men in business suits stopped to chat with Patricia. Muriel remarked she remembered the old Emporium was still open when she first arrived in San Francisco.

Inside Bloomingdale’s, Benjamin ran up the escalator before Patricia started her own ascent.  On the second level, several young adults asked to take pictures, at least one side by side. We all trekked up to the fourth floor, thinking the restaurants would be active.  Instead, we descended to the second floor and the entrance to Bloomingdale’s then down to the Mission Street exit headed for Yerba Buena Gardens, nicely dotted with reclining bodies, reading, eating, kibitzing in the sun.  Crews were trundling boxwood in green wood containers with other crew members consulting clipboards and still others unloading shrink wrapped
beer cans in preparation for a sizeable social gathering.

Our ensemble called a halt in front of The Samovar on the upper level of YBC where Muriel, still the quintessential slender dancer in her own whites, directed a rendezvous between angel Patricia and Jill, MPD’s receptionist, who, dressed in black, crossed YBC’s grass to invite the angel to walk with her to the Museum’s new location.

Back upstairs and across the walkway above Howard Street, past the Children’s Theater and down the Fourth Street stairs to Folsom, skirting workmen in orange and equipment extracting sidewalk.  Crossing to the south side of Folsom, Muriel suggested that I walk on ahead.  I walked an extra block, having transposed the numbers in my head.  Retracing my steps, the next door deli directed me to the grill behind which the riches of MPD were plainly crowded in piles of boxes, in a space smaller than its former fourth floor digs in the Veterans’ Building.  Patricia had already relinquished the wings to their  new home.

Our ensemble went next door for tea and a sandwich, chatting about local bargains and unexpected locations of luxe items for a few minutes before scattering.  Waiting briefly, Elyse Eng and I boarded the #12 Folsom, chatting until I got off  at Second and Market to catch the #5 Folsom.

MPD’s Website soon will update the Museum’s location and hours of operation.  The #45 Union Bus currently goes down Fifth Street to its 4th and Townsend terminal, and the #12 Folsom/ Pacific stops almost in front of the Museum’s door inbound, crossing Market at Second Street.  Outbound to 24th Street,  along Harrison until it reaches 11th and Folsom.  The Museum’s telephone number is:415-255-4800.


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