Archive | July, 2016

ODC’s Succulent Summer Sampler

23 Jul

Succulent usually refers to a plant which is hardy and can last through dry spells without withering all that much. Not a glamorous attribute, but why knock the sturdy? Especially when the contours and edges frequently display unusual shades and shapes. The 2016 Summer Sampler at ODC’s B Way Theatre provided this quality to the July 22 audiences for three short numbers, two of which were reprises, one a work in progress.

The partially formed work was attributed to K. T. Nelson, not yet titled, to a mix of music by Julia Wolk, Ben Frost, Frideric Handel, Hauschka probably collated by Natasha Adorelee Johnson, who doubled as dancer and sound engineer, the results performed by the entire company.

Nelson’s conceptual map knows little boundaries though the development can seem, at times, perfunctory in its visual support. She is not normally one to explore a theme that’s small scaled; the impact is one mesmerizing by the dancers’ skill, musculature and the rush of the theme thundering on the heels of the dancers’ considerable technique. Nelson is concerned here about the human place in our universe of technology and what does it do to our cultural inheritance.

Jeremy Smith started the adventure, shaved head, and minimal garments, making almost Egyptian profile movements and flexing his arms and hands. He is interrupted by Brandon “Private” Freeman and the two exchange body grasps, lifts and shuffles. Gradually the women make their appearance, also minimally clothed in short trunks or skirts. But they come sporting props which they place briefly on Smith – a white wig, a neck ruff, a lace gilet – a Soldier’s cap – before removing them. Tegan Schwab arrived with a fan which she gives to Smith, there is a white plume on another woman’s head – the ‘Twenties, perhaps or possibly le regime ancien.
This succession gives the audience a quick historical references as the other company members appear with similar reference points. The movements, some breath-taking lifts and tumbles, call prior formalities into question.

Following a pause, Brandon “Private” Freeman reprised Going Solo (2016), seen to such advantage at ODC’s Dancing Down Town season. Freeman’s mid-sized, muscular body now sports a couple of tattoos on one of his upper arms; thankfully it only slightly distracts from the sculptural acuity of his spatial movements, as Freeman moves his hand, then arms into space, bending, stretching, and finally, with the aid of water from his plastic thermos, sliding, surfing forward and backward on the floor, standing, and on his back. It is a tour de force reaching the audience with a visual solemnity akin to standing in a cathedral.

After Intermission Brenda Way revived Waving Not Drowning (A Guide to Elegance) (2010) possessing a joint French-English narrative regarding deportment de rigeur for French females. With Way’s capacity to nudge and mock both gently and visually, the company provided madcap movements and adornments, the women papering the men dressed a la mode.

The company now comprises, in addition to Smith, Freeman, Johnson and Schwab, Dennis Adams, Josie G. Sadan, Steffi Cheong, Jeremy Bannon Neches, Alec Guthrie, Allie Papazian.

In her introduction to the evening, Brenda Way said that they were looking forward to the company’s 50th season. In course of their planning, they wanted the audience to provide the names of works they particularly remember, a place for which was provided on one side of the program insert. For those of you who remember the early days of the company, do e-mail the titles of works which particularly stick in your mind. They will be welcome.

Finally, Carlos Carvajal spoke to Kimi Okada his pleasure and gratitude to ODC’s leadership for the remodeling of the theatre. “They could have left the theatre as it was, but instead, they had a vision of what it could be. They have my wholehearted admiration.”

Mine, too.

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Five, Nineteen Equals Twenty-Three According to Joe Landini

19 Jul

Joe Landini, that force in San Francisco who has masterminded SAFE – Save the Arts From Extinction – has undisguised flair and presence which he demonstrated in introducing the two programs Rita Felciano and I saw Sunday, July 10 in different parts of ODC’s Theatre. This was Landini’s SAFEhouse Arts’ 6th Annual Summer Performance Festival.

Before discussing the two events seen, Landini’s assumption of One Grove Street’s space is numbered from the general conversation I was witness to. Burger King apparently owned the ground floor and has sold it, meaning that One Grove Street has perhaps a year remaining as a performance venue. Not much isk known about the new owners – I heard that doctors will be the new occupants – a clinic? A state of the Art something or other? If medical, are the practitioners aware that art belongs to the healing equation in they took the oath of Hippocrates.

The site of Ephesus possessed not only a hospital, but sports facilities and one of the great Greek classical theatres remaining. Would that medicine heed the confluence of forces, mind; body;expression.

Editorializing aside, three events were witnessed. The first, at 6p.m. in ODC’s upstairs studio on Shotwell and 17th was soloist Lucia August/Everybody Can Dance, “standing OUTstanding.”

August, a large, heavy set woman, handsome head with cropped grey hair, flashing greyish eyes and straight nose, and wonderfully capable hands with a sweeping arm capacity, started her largely autobiographical hour with Parallel Lives, describing how life went along on one track and her love of dancing intertwined until they joined forces at age 50.

The second piece, Consistent Paradox, told the tale of a man who “Had it all,” paid his minions well, who kept his secret that he was, in reality, a woman. This involved gestures showing him boxing himself in tighter and tighter, working himself into a frenzy, clearly fooling noone but himself.

They Never Really Leave, which completed the program told the tale of a lover from U.C. Santa Barbara days, who disappeared in 1983, but whose presence returns vividly every so often. Lucia August’s seniority has given her a forthright presence, an honesty about sexual preferences and definite performing skills.

Using the small elevator to get downstairs and around the corner [if not under the tree or hearing the Sergeant Major], it was to witness two much younger groups and an intriguing soloist who knows how to use lighting to enhance his movement

Peter and Co., formed in 2104, featured a solo, Interstice, and a trio titled Transverse Course. If not mistaken, Chen draws some of his inspiration from the circular, sinewy qualities of Asian marital arts. The credits indicate that solo works were the beginning, and the two pieces clearly reflect that particular emphasis.

Interstice as Websters New World Dictionary describes it is a small or narrow space between things or space, a cranny, crook, and, with the aid of side lighting, Chen’s solo conveyed that narrowness, the inability of the body to face fully forward, side ward or back. Yet, with the lighting and a remarkably eloquent torso and arm movement his body wended an eerie way with considerable cogency.

Transverse Course presented a trio, Kalani Hicks, Sophia Larriva, Alyssa Mirchel, in patterns which echoed faintly the circular and oval movements of Peter Chen but minus the shifts in height or eerie lighting. The piece demonstrated devoted dancers, but Chen still working towards movement with dancers as effective as his own personal style.

Tanya Charese’s Masses utilized a dozen dancers in an ambitious, semi-martial series of maneuvers, sometimes vertical, sometimes dropping or hunching on the floor, to emphasize not only routine, habitual daily movement, but also the loneliness of contemporary life. She assembled the ensemble and deployed them like a general, managing to convey an army-like movement on the march. Whether that was her intention I am unsure, but it was impressive.

The dozen performances were: Hayley Bowman, Kelsey Gerber, Mallory Markham, Maddie Matuska, Amy McMurcha, Rebecca Morris, Lind Phung, Jessica Rols, Emma Salmon, Vera Schwegher, Brittany Tran, Oona Wong-Danders.

Seeing these young dancers plus noting Joe Landini’s prodigous generosity in providing a showcase for their development provides hope for strong future dance statements.

Ballet Excerpts

14 Jul

Since signing up for Facebook, “Friends” manage to keep me informed on ballets and dancers I otherwise might never have been.
One of the gems that Dennis Mullen provided was a brief 1909 movie of Tamara Karsavina in a Torch Dance. I think the choreographer was Michel Fokine and it was one of oriental-flair pieces that were so de rigeur at the time. Even with the static choreography, one could see the precision of the Maryinsky training and what a surpassingly lovely woman and good dancer she was.

I’ve also had glimpses of Sarafanov, whom the late George Zoritch saw in Perm at an Arabesque Competition, and mentioned to me; more recently a young Johann Kobborg in Bournonville variations with Rose Gad dancing the feminine role. Those wonderful little running steps in the variation as the dancer turns his back briefly to the audience in preparation for what is one of those light, impressive attitude jetes . Toba Singer was responsible for this banquet.

Daniel Simmons posted the final section of the Rose Adagio with Tamra Rojo as Aurora. She was a wonder; the camera was close enough so one could see her adjusting her weight as she held her pose and offered her hand to one of the suitors. What was remarkable was that she set her arms en haut each time – not just a movement from hand to paw, but a fully formed port de bras phrasing with the suitor gallantly waiting to approach the prize.

Which brings me to TV station 32.5 here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Its home is in Burbank with the offerings sustained by a  legacy. Sad to say I don’t remember the name of the man who left the funding allowing this station to broadcast 24/7 movies, music, dance and commentary, from silent films to Misha’s first days with American Ballet Theatre, partnering Dierdre Carberry in Twyla Tharp’s The Little Ballet.

The last couple of nights I have heard the strains of The Rose  Adagio, and since I saw Maya Plisetskaya in the role, thanks to the station,  I wasn’t very interested. But then I took a look and was astonished.
In flesh colored tights a battery of men, augmented by chrome ballet bars, were dancing, jumping and falling in utter precision to the various orchestral instruments before the ensemble parted to reveal Aurora, also in flesh colored tights.

She was led over and under the bars, she was covered by the male bodies to be revealed prone and spread eagled. One man picked up her arm and swung around on her back on the floor to one of the sequences usually displaying Aurora’s balance.

At that point it began to hit me – all the men around the prize – like dogs around a bitch in heat. Instead of stringing  out the analogy, Aurora was placed on one of the bars and led towards the selected Prince Charming who had thumped his chest. They converged on the bar and kissed. Ritual completed. Blackout.

The piece manages to be well danced, theatrically exciting and more than a little silently satirical in the crisp way European artists manage so well, a tone parallel in quality to Hans Von Manen.

It’s a fascinating piece of choreography; if my eyes are correct, the company is stationed in Biarritz, and bears the name of Malandatin, with Thierry Malandatin the choreographer and artistic director.  The Web carries quite a bit of information on the director, the dancers and the repertoire.

It would be fascinating to see what he might mount on San Francisco Ballet dancers.

San Francisco’s Summer Specialities

12 Jul

What San Francisco’s dance scene provides in the summer is its increasing variety of interesting works, many of which are organized by artists and choreographers engaged in other organizations during most of the year.

Thus far there has been SF Dance Works’ premiere season and July 8-10, the Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason has housed Amy Seiwart’s 6th Sketch, where she has invited  choreographers to join her in stretching their vocabularies, utilizing some exciting dancers, and choroegraphers coming from Sewiart’s various  associations .

July 8 provided a foggy evening to trail down the western side of the Fort Mason pier that houses the Cowell Theatre where the original corridor has been cordoned off and the vast space is being remodeled. Eventually, the entrance is to be moved to the eastern side of the pier and none too soon when one contemplates the varied weather one encounters in reaching the space which has housed so many dance events since Fort Mason became a cultural definition. Friday nights also is the evening Fort Mason has inaugurated Off The Grid, where a cluster of 30 mobile trucks serve specialties to anyone hungry, nearby or purposely attending to sample the variety, 5-10 p.m. complete with music and three bars.

Returning to dancing, Amy Seiwart came out from behind the red curtain to explain that the brief season are intended to help two or three invited choreographers besides herself stretch themselves beyond their acquired choreographic “tool box,” trying something outside their comfort zone. The invited were Nicole Haskins, Anthony Hoagland and Val Caniparoli. Hoagland’s Cigarettes was a repeat from the 2011 season. But Haskin’s With Alacrity and Caniparoli’s 4 in the Morning were premieres, as was Seiwart’s Instructions. Most of the ten dancers have worked in various companies where Seiwart has choreographed.

Haskin’s With Alacrity utilized a quartet, three women and a man in various encounters, Andre Silva with Beth Ann Maslinoff, Kelsey McFalls and Annali Rose. Susan Roemer’s monochrome costumes were alleviated by a band of multi hued patterned fabric at the waist of the women’s skirts and Silva’s tights. The floor patterns as well as the movements were atypical but not arresting and while there was some partnering, nothing suggested male-female attraction or particular rivalry.

Following a pause was “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray” is a plaintiff folksy song, sung by what seems to have been five different interpreters to illuminate a table, four chairs, plus a vintage refrigerator brought out by James Gilmer, Scott Marlowe and Peter Frank, housing Sarah C. Griffin, the quartet costumed by Jamiellyn Duggan. The men, garbed in iconic scruffy clothing, open up the refrigerator door to reveal Griffin jack-knifed in its interior, trailing gown befitting ‘Thirties style glamour, and three pairs of high-heeled shoes which she removes, steps into and removes at various moments before clutching all three and reverting to her original cold storage.. The contrast between the beer-culture behavior of the men and the intense glamour, unfufilled, was as fascinating as Griffin is as a dancer, clearly a major talent.

Seiwart’s Instructions was clearly the major component of the program and her plunge into narrative, in this instance a lengthy poem by Neil Garman, augmented by Benjamin Britten’s Suite for Cello, played on stage by Michelle Kwon, stopping and starting as dancer-actor Scott Marlowe spoke the lines and seven dancers provided the territory or obstacles which the wayfarer encountered. Seiwart’s capacity for groupings grounded her foray into narrative, utilizing gestures and postures suggesting the terrain through which the traveller moved. Susan Roemer’s black costumes enhanced the quasi-magical implications of Garman’s words. It’s a work that should be seen again.

Caniparoli’s Four in the Morning took its inspiration from William Walter’s music for Facade, though completely different from Frederick Ashton’s selections from the poem of Edith Sitwell. Costumer Susan Roemer clothed the men in their skivvies, shoes with socks to mid-calf and the women in lightly cream-colored slip-like satin gowns, while each verse was marked by a clock-like entry on back stage left-side curtain, slightly blurred because of the scarlet folds. Caniparoli has created a tongue-in-check entertaining pieces for Smuin Ballet, but nothing to my knowledge set to speech. Sitwell’s verse runs a path trippingly on the tongue in the best Gilbert and Sullivan manner; the content, however, is as pared down and suggestive as the deshabile of the costuming, the women with knowing and occasionally with some come hither, shoulder gestures, cocked chins and flicks of the hand. The men lunge, pirouette, lifting the women, disappear with one suggestively, tossing out garments to suggest the inevitable horizontal postures.  But no, one garment is a kilt.

Both Caniparoli and Sewiart’s works utilized all eight dancers: Sarah C. Griffin, Rachel Furst, Annali Rose, Beth Ann Maslinoff, James Gilmer, Peter Franc, Andre Silva and Scott Marlowe.

Thanks to Amy Seiwart and her generous Sketch, next summer is something to anticipate.

An October Gala in Moscow

8 Jul

Olga Guardia de Smoak is the go-to person on most matters relating to classical ballet. She currently is serving as the organizer for the March 26-28 Semi-Finals for the VKIBC to be held in New Orleans March 26-28, 2017, prior to the June Competition in New York City.

This current activity is simply one of a lengthy string of ballet events Olga either has master-minded or assisted in bringing to fruition. From my standpoint, and personal involvement, one of her stellar achievements  was organizing the 2000 Ballets Russes Celebration in New Orleans, enabling Geller/Goldfine Productions to jump start their remarkable documentary The Ballets Russes.

In the process of asking me to identify West Coast dance teachers who might want  to send students to the VKIBC semi-finals, Olga mentioned a mid-October Gala at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre  being facilitated by Jelko Urasha, former Festival Ballet dancer and husband to the late Belinda Wright.

It seems that ,besides his noted staging of Pas de Quatre for four ballerinas, Sir Anton Dolin created a Pas de Quatre for men, naming the variations for the elements of Wind, Fire, Air and Water. This work will be presented at the October Gala, featuring the following male principals: Marian Walter, Berlin Ballet;  Artem Ovcharenko, Bolshoi Ballet ; Vadim Muntagorov, Royal Ballet; Taras Domitro, San Francisco Ballet.

At this writing, the music is unknown, but will be posted when available.

July 8, 2016  Olga Guardia de Smoak and Deborah Brooks came to the rescue  with the name of the composer: Marguerite Keogh.  The title of the music is Variations for Four.Keogh apparently was a musical accompanist for Dolin and Festival Ballet. The work was created in 1957.

Thanks to both informants.