Zhukov Dance Theatre, S.F. Jazz Center, October 29

8 Nov

Yuri Zhukov’s Dance Theatre comes around just once a year, in late summer or early fall. This year’s two performances are the latest into the fall yet. S.F. Jazz Center, as venue, provided Zhukov’s five dancers with a thrust stage environment, the audience on three sides, much like an outdoor amphitheatre. For the kind of message Zhukov provides an audience, it’s an excellent choice; the dancers are totally exposed and the lighting provides them with the chance
to fade into the background, but not leave the stage. It was S.F. Jazz Center’s first dance event.

This year Zhukov shared choreographic honors with Idan Sharabi, an Israeli whose professional performing credits include Nederlans Dans Theatre and Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, and choreographic accomplishments for Ballet Junior de Geneve and the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, a full evening for The Belgrade Dance Festival, and teaching at the University of California, Irvine.

Both choreographers come from specific traditions, Zhukov’s more ancient than Sharabi’s, which is nonetheless strong and committed. They possess a strong grasp of technique and craft mingled with highly individual approaches to themes.

I have watched Zhukov since he arrived in San Francisco, dancing opposite Muriel Maffre in Swan Lake, their acknowledging bows embodiments of their two traditions. Certainly after the Birmingham Royal Ballet and teaching for the Royal Swedish Ballet, Zhukov’s return to San Francisco signaled a commitment to personal vision, which include intriguing visual as well as choreographic skill.

The annual two evening performances have been labeled “product,” of which this is the sixth. Zhukov’s work titled Enlight employed squares of light merging gradually into full stage lighting before returning to the squares under which five dancers danced to music played by Jordi Savall, on the viol de gamba, some of it Johann Sebastian Bach, by also Icelandic composer Johann Johannson for contemporary dissonance and angst.

Sharabi”s piece Spider on a Mirror was based and expanded on gestures observed on San Francisco’s streets before spinning into incredibly athletic displays where dancers would emerge from the sidelines or next to each other, and then retreat. In the beginning, the glances, the turns of heads and shoulders created an almost lacy spatial effect before the dancers became almost violently active, their plasticity stretched as far as their highly trained physiques allowed. Spider on a Mirror concludes with the repetition of a young man’s quandry, the other dancers regarding him sympathetically, ultimately moving away, reminding us we are ultimately alone.

The dancers were Rachel Fallon, Doug Baum, Christopher Bordenave, Nick Korbos, Aszure Barton and Jeremy Neches. Fallon was new to the Zhukov ensembles, the others having appeared in Zhukov’s Product Five and earlier, Bordenave one of the oldest. Both choreographers made enormous demands on the dancers who gave themselves to the two works with skill, energy and amazing virtuosity.

Yuri Zhukov’s annual two evening seasons, with his visual art available for purchase, make a statement about him as a special artist and, also, about San Francisco. Some artists prefer a milieu where it is possible to explore multiple avenues and to develop their vision at a pace where their sensibilities are challenged primarily by their own vision. San Francisco seems to be
such a place, and it has harbored some remarkably unique dance artists in this regard. I think of the late Ed Mock, June Watanabe and Brenda Wong Aoki as such special talents; Yuri Zukhov clearly is among that number San Francisco is fortunate to possess. Undergirding Zhukov’s multiple talents is his Russian heritage; in his explorations he combines the extremes of sensibility and an acuity of vision reminiscent of Dostoevsky.

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