SFDance Works Season Two: June 22-24

28 Jun

ODC’s BWayTheatre on Seventeenth Street in San Francisco was the scene of SF Danceworks Season two June 22-24 with nine dancers, six dances, one superb violinist, and a number of happy volunteer staff. That virtually all of the participants had some local connection, past or present, was to be expected and said fact intensified the pleasurable buzz.

I’ll make with the details first, impressions later. And while I am at it, let me recommend Toba Singer’s review in Culture Vulture. Eloquent evaluation.

To the list of admirable, thoughtful reviews, add Rita Felciano’s for Danceviewtimes, seen by me the first time June 28.

James Sofranko, SFDance Works’ artistic director and founder, both last season and this, has been canny in his choices, drawing dancers from three local companies, as well as two local choreographers. San Francisco Ballet, where Sofranko is a soloist, was represented by one present principal dancer, Jaime Garcia Castilla, and three former artists, Garrett Anderson, Dana Genshaft and Pascal Molat. ODC provided Steffi Cheong, Lines Ballet Brett Conway, and one-time Ballet San Jose-Silicon Valley Ballet’s Kendall Teague joined dancers Danielle Rowe and Laura O’Malley, now resident in the Area.

Choreographically, the major works included in the program were Jose Limon’s Chaconne, mounted by Gary Masters, as well as Christopher Bruce, CBE, whose Shadows was staged by Dawn Scannell and Tracy Tinker.

From Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Alexandro Cerrudo’s Never Was opened the program with Danielle Rowe and Brett Conway, followed by James Graham’s Two Dimes and a Nickel in its premiere, danced by the trio Dana Genshaft, Garrett Anderson and Kendall Teague, probably representing the nickel and two dimes respectively.

Matt Miller’s lighting for Alejandro Cerrudo’s Never Was kept Danielle Rowe and Brett Conway in semi-darkness throughout the wonderful strains of Henry Purcell and George Handel. Branimir Ivanova’s mottled forest green costumes reinforced the now-you-see-it briefly quality of well-paired, elegant dancing.

From half-light to Jim French’s bright lighting for Two Dimes and a Nickel, dancers Dana Genshaft, Garrett Anderson and Kendall Teague moved to snippets of some eight pieces of music pieced together by James Graham, who apparently is a Gag exponent; my impression of the excellent dancing reinforced the name of the movement style.

Jose Limon’s Chaconne with Pascal Molat and violinist Rene Mandel preceded the first intermission with Danielle Rowe’s For Pixie with Brett Conway and Laura O’Malley immediately following the break. Christopher Bruce’s Shadows ended the second part of the program with dancers Steffi Cheong, Danielle Rowe, Garrett Anderson and Kendall Teague.

The program’s themes could be roughly divided into choreography inspired by music, choreography motivated by mood and/or situation and choreography which may have been mood and/or as a vehicle. What lingers is, of course, Limon’s Chaconne, with Molat’s quite different body size, providing in the quick steps and arm gestures the essence of what Limon brought to his solo. Once one registered the physical difference, one appreciated what Molat’s intelligence, generosity and pleasure gave to make his performance a triumph. And, of course, he enjoyed the superb violin support of Rene Mandel.

Christopher Bruce’s Shadows provided a portrait of frustration, attempts at escape, displays of restraint and ultimately the solidity of four individuals in departure. It is not the first time Bruce has dealt with the push, pull and hesitation that has seen danced in San Francisco. A Bruce work on the departure of Irish men was earlier danced by San Francisco Ballet with David Palmer as one of the departing. Here Bruce, using music by Arvo Part, presents with equal strength an urban view, featuring a table and four crude chairs, with Steffi Cheong and Kendall Teague as the young, most easily frustrated, with Garrett Anderson and Danielle Rowe as the experienced, pragmatic pair. In the end, all four lift suitcases and prepare for departure. Cheong and Teague reflected youthful frustration while Anderson and Rowe made me want to see them in a Tudor piece. The desperation seemed that Bruce was also familiar with Vincent Van Gogh’s portrait of The Potato Eaters.

After the second intermission, the final work was Penny Saunder’s Soir Bleu, using music of five composers, Paul Moore, Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Lera Auerbach amd Johann Paul Von Westroff. With Mario Alonso’s set design and Mark Zippone’s costumes, it brought Jaime Carcia Castilla into the roster of prior dancers, the work inspired by American painter Edward Hopper. There is a long explanation in the program notes that Hopper’s wife sacrificed her own talents to foster Hopper’s; this may have been registered by the frequency with which Steffi Cheong appeared in front of a paneless window structure down stage left. Interspersed were curving movements and lines of the male dancers in front of yet another structure, enhanced by the lighting, the semi-ghostly quality indeed reflective of the spareness of a Hopper evening. I remember Danielle Rowe sweeping past in a fitted garnet toned gown its wide skirt accented by her phrasing, along with the repeated look by Cheong, and Castilla following a curved line, his own body making a crescent as he moved.

Sofranko demonstrates taste and his discerning eye makes for a balanced program. Even when the final results raises some quibbles, it’s clear he knows how to assemble the provocative as well as the pleasurable in programming. That’s no mean feat; I, for one, want to see his decisions become a venerable part of San Francisco’s early summer dance calendar.

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