Tag Archives: Cowell Theatre

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.

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Japanese Artistry at the 2016 San Francisco International Arts Festival

21 May

Cowell Theater at Fort Mason provided the venue for the opening performance May 19 of the Hiroshi Koike Bridge Project at the 2016 San Francisco International Arts Festival. The famous chilly winds of San Francisco Bay also were out whipping up the waters and chilling the audience as it walked the length of the pier to Cowell Theater’s new entrance.

Titled The Restaurant of Many Orders and supported by the U.S./Japan Cultural Trade Network, the 7 p.m. was the first of two performances constituting the three-person ensemble’s U.S. premiere.  It possessed many features making Japanese theatre such a treat and absorbing experience, even when the supporting sound is recorded. Let me enumerate: Asikazu Nakamura, shakuhachi; Shitamachi Kyodai, percussion; Toshio Nakagawa, piano with masks by the Balinese artisans I Wayan Tanggu and I Made Sutarka. Makoto Matushima is credited with art and Seiichiro Mori with props and Lighting by Takayuki Tomiyama. Responsible choreography and direction was byHiroshi Koike.

Rita Felicano expanded on the story of hunters seeking game, encounter a storm, getting lost until discovering the restaurant Wildcat Inn. She said the original story made the hunters English. Following instructions. two of them enter, following instructions, only to find themselves possible objects for dinner. Apparently the story was acquired by the Japanese.  Three superlative animal masks transform the hunters into forest animals, the configurations very traditional Japanese in style.

The three performers are Tatsuro Koyano, Ayako Araki, and Akira Otsuka. What a trio they are. Two are tall, willowy and fairly young,  the third stocky, of medium height, clearly the senior of the three , who may have passed forty. For eloquence of body they are fantastic for the myriad of body gestures and expressive movements,  all mouth-gapingly terrific.

The opening smoke wafted ahead of the players’ entry, one shape looking like a creeping dragon, fitfully illumined. The sounds followed the story line faithfully.

Using a low semi-circle construction as their stage, two signboards and a portable structure to indicate a doorway, the trio present themselves in terribly correct gentlemen hunter garb, using long metallic poles to indicate weapons, sticking them in holes in the semi-circular structure from time to time;  expressions, postures and interplay would do credit to the Marx Brothers. There didn’t seem to be an eye-brow lift, shoulder shrug, weight shift or body lunge  left not utilized. Off center balances were remarkable with front and center to the audience seemed to complete a paragraph or episode in the story. The deftness used with the props was like watching a master calligrapher arranging ink, paper and brush. In the end, the shirts of the trios were drenched, the completeness of performance visibly illustrated.

Twenty-four hours later, my mind replays ambiance, gestures, filled with admiration and satisfaction over this gift from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Caminos Flamencos’ Canciones November 30

4 Dec

A drizzly Sunday matinee took Brooke Byrne and me to the Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason to see the matinee of two performances of Caminos Flamencos’ Canciones with Yaelisa’s seven stalwarts, Manuel Guiterrez, Marina Elena, Fanny Ara, Melissa Cruz, Devon Le Russa, Molly Rogers and Christina Zanfagna. The singers included Jesus Montoya and Jose Cortes with musicians Jason McGuire “El Rubio’, drummer/cajon player Marion Aldana and Paul Martin Sounder on the upright bass.

Canciones implies lyrics of which there were aplenty. Alas, those in Spanish were not clarified with an English translation so that words like “Luna,” and “Corazon,” proved the principal Spanish words most in the audience understood. Doubtlesst  many Spanish-speaking flamenco aficionados were in the audience; for us ignoramouses a tadt of translating would go a long way to intensify the experience of Yaelisa’s continued invention.

Out of the fifteen separate numbers in the program, eight were created and danced to popular lyrics, featuring individual dancers in their own choreography, performed following a Verdiales by the company and a rousing Zapateado rendered by the musicians.

Yaelisa led off with L. Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ before the company danced to the Beatles ‘Because’. The songs chosen lent themselves to turns and taconeo as well as flamenco port de bras, adapting to the lyrics. This was particularly true for Fanny Ara’s interpretation of Arcade Fire’s “My Body Is A Cage,” where her arms lunged outward, as if her body was pressed against jailhouse bars.

Manuel Gutierrez ‘s performance to Leon Russell’s “A Song For You,” sung by Ray Charles, was enhanced by three pools of light and three successive encounters with women who simply moved on. Gutierrez uses his feet in a most elegant manner and positions hat and jacket to theatrical effect.

Just before intermission the company gathered for “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic,” sung by The Police. Following intermission, the company danced to a Stevie Wonder rendition of “Pastime Paradise,.” a multi-hued umbrella adding cheek and spice.

The last two interpretations of pop songs were danced by Devon La Russa, “Wake” to Linkin Park, La Russa in Black and dancing with strong modern dance overtones; Melissa Cruz selected “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” sung by Aretha Franklin, Cruz attired like a ragamuffin; mismatched clothing, a substantial blue scarf.

The three musicians then changed the ambiance with Contratempo A La Luz de La Luna, and the orthodox flamenco section began with Fanny Ara. Ara’s Tangos de Malaga was enhanced by a cream-colored sheath,  small ruffles at hem, neckline and sleeves of ombre rusts and brown were a knockout, emphasizing the luxurious swivel of her hips and the insistence of her taconeo. Brooke Byrne remarked, “For my money, Fanny Ara and Melissa Cruz can do no wrong.”

Alegrias was interpreted by Marina Elana, small, tawny of hair, dressed in white with a tasseled white scarf which she manipulated as the dance required her body to turn left and right as her feet emphasized a pattern with heel and metatarsals, all with the air , “Oh, you think so – well, I’ll show you.” This combative quality ending with a flourish after she had divested herself of her scarf, and, at the last minute, thrust it around her shoulders, “So there!”.

Manuel Gutierrez interpreted a Fandangos, frequently considered a couples dance and with castanets. Minus castanets, Gutierrez made his interpeetation memorable.

Yaelisa likes closing programs with Siguiriyas. It suits her, the eloquence of her arms and hands. In addition to this distinction, her interest in stretching the flamenco medium into something typically contemporary in American pop music is to be applauded, even though for me, the tradition remains the most exciting part of her faithful ensemble.

The audience clearly loved the program, and when Gutierrez’ little son came tripping across the stage and was persuaded to exercise his small feet in a barrage of taconeo. The image of the ensemble warmly encouraging this representative of the next generation was quite endearing.

David Szasla is to be congratulated on the spare ambiance of his lighting design.