International Hip-Hop Festival, #17

3 Jan

An early 2016 recap for the November 22, 2015 performance

Micaya is a certified wonder, producing the International Hip Hop Festival this close to two decades at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts. She does it with relatively little subsidy, outside of the regulars, foundations and individuals, who donate to dance events. But she possesses a near battalion of volunteers. I give her full marks in addition to admiring her stage presence asking the audience to give those various groups “some love” at the end of the four performances.

Also bless Micaya, not only for her enterprise, but mentioning that The Palace of Fine Arts, where she produces the annual Festival, might come under the aegis of a commercial hotel. The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Commission continues to assert the various commercial uses the Palace served before the cavernous space jointly housed the Theatre and The Exploratorium. To undermine the tranquility of the location is gross to say the least.

That aside, The Festival this year had just two international guest acts, a duo from Japan and a soloist from England. This year I managed only Program B with Brooke Byrne, who saw A as well, filling me in on some of the qualities of the international visitors, Hilty and Bosch from Osaka, Japan and Cindy Claes from London. As Brooke pointed out, “When you consider these guests pay their own way, they have to be at a level of prominence and accomplishment to make the journey worthwhile.” And they were.

Hilty and Bosch displayed a dizzying array of projections behind them, all linear patterns, and, as I remember, mostly in red. Both artists were compactly built and provided the audience with a fair amount of gymnastics.

Brooke told me Cindy Claes’ Program A featured U.S. civil rights -Sandra Bland, the woman arrested in Texas for failing to signal a left turn, dying in her jail cell. In Program B “She Speaks” Claes employed the conflict between the cell phone’s purported easy communication and a goal, symbolized by a trophy on a stand and a chair from which she started and retreated. Inspired by a social activist and blogger Sandra Bland, who died in custody, Claes see-sawed between the trophy and the interruptions created by the cell phone. A sandy-haired young woman, whose body I can best describe as doughy, possessed a keen balance between drama and movement, between expression and timing. At the last minute, yes, she reached the trophy; quick blackout.

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