Archive | September, 2014

Cowell Theatre Reopens with Mark Foehringer Dance Project

17 Sep

September 13 Cowell Theatre reopened after a face lift for Fort Mason’s Herbst
Pavillion. Walking in the usual door to Cowell, unalloyed space opens up before the eyes and a new smooth grey surface greets the visitor between that entry and a white wall which protrudes out into the Pavillion. It looks as though temporary barriers will be erected for events, but on September 13 there was nobody else but us dance devotees. Absent were the wonderful posters of past Cowell events which adorned the now demolished wall between the Pavillion floor and the Cowell entrance. Nothing has changed that long walk to the Theatre’s entrance.

Dances Sacred and Profane spells Debussy, that most evanescent of composers and Foehringer decided to collaborate with visual artists Camille Utterback and Phill Tew to create a work for five dancers, three men and two women. Debussy was augmented one piece each by Gabriel Faure and Maurice Ravel. It was a brave try, provocative at moments, visually arresting in graphics of dots, bursts of green sticks and vague, dissolving human figures, but alas, not engaging the attention all the time. Brett Bowman and Dana Hemenway contributed videographics; there was questionable sound augmentation by Dr. Michael St. Clair. Additional credits in the program listed Frederic G. Boulay for production design and direction, costume design by Connie Strayer and Jamielyn Duggan and dance room Spectroscopy by Dr. David Glowacki. All seemed to line up on stage at the end, and I am certain there was exhilaration felt by every last one.

The women were dressed in flowing nude-hued draperies, ditto the color of the men’s tights and at one point in similarly colored loose trousers. At no time was Michael Oesch’s lighting full force, remaining shadowy throughout, partly to display the visual designs on the three screens behind the dancers, partly enforcing not only the dreamy nature of Debussy’s compositions but supplying a tenderness to the two striking male pas de deux as well as almost the genderless ensembles.

A number of years ago when Dance Spectrum was one of San Francisco’s alternate ballet ensembles, Carlos Carvajal choreographed Shapes of Evening to the same music, using the circle, and flowering-like imagery to create a balletic interpretation, moving around, from and returning to a circle of four or five couples. Lighting then also was subdued, though slightly golden, the dancers being clearly recognizable. I found myself contrasting that balletic distinctness of movement to the less fullness of gesture, the continual dissolving of an ensemble or pas de deux on Cowell’s stage.

Earlier Foehringer had choreographed a Debussy-based pas de deux for Heather Cooper and Brian Fisher danced at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music which I found most effective in an exposed environment, perhaps the genesis of this recent work.

The dancers were Raphael Boumaila, Sonja Dale, Jamielyn Duggan, Brian Fisher, Cooper Neely.

Clarifying a 2013 Entry

16 Sep

Recently I received an e-mail from Gloria de la Guardia de Alfaro, younger sister
of Olga Guardia de Smoak, pointing out her sister was married to James Smoak
from South Carolina and not to Pavel Smok. I responded she was correct and the error reinforced why the name of this blog was “woollywesterneye.”

Today, September 15, I re-acquainted myself with the February 2013 entry; I can easily see why Mrs. del Alfaro might object. The offending information read:

“The gossip from the Competition was that this energetic, slender, tiny-boned woman from Panama, with her sharp-nosed oval face was not only their interpreter, but the wife of the Czech juror, Pavel Smok. The different spelling went unnoticed in the heat and steamy excitement at that first competition in Jackson, partly because no one wanted to investigate, partly because there was no reason for anything official to bear Olga’s name at the time, nor the fact that this Vassar graduate listed New Orleans, Louisiana as her home and base of operations.”

Note: following Smoak’s name, I wrote “The different spelling went unnoticed….
partly because no one wanted to investigate….” I probably should have clarified at the time that Olga was married to James Smoak, but did not.

This entry is intended to acknowledge the partial ambiguity of my prose and the sisterly care demonstrated by Alfaro, a distinguished Spanish-language writer, active in PEN in South America. Unfortunately, for mono-linguists like me, her works have never been translated. The two Smoak sisters are tri-lingual; Olga added Russian as a fourth. –