Tag Archives: Katherine Wells

ODC Dances Downtown With Two Premieres

3 Apr

Friday March 20, the second of ODC’s annual spring Dances Downtown, K.T. Nelson choreographed one and collaborated with Brenda Way on the second.

In the personnel department I learned from publicist Mona Baroudi that Anne Zivolich had left the company to work for Apple. What a bite that takes in the company’s talent! However, ODC has gained Katherine Wells, and what treat it is
to see her dancing with an ensemble known to be generous and caring of its members.

K.T.’s Nelson’s work, Dead Reckoning, if you read the program notes, was about Nature and its vastness, starting with the ensemble being frenetic as only K.T. can assemble such chaotic activity, skillfully abetted by a commissioned score by Joan Jeanrenaud with percussion by PC Munoz. I am watching, scribbling in the dark, and it soon quieted down to seemingly unrelated single passages, then a pair, then a trio which often has not so much a triangular relationship, but an encounter, like the finale where a couple literally moves over the prone figure of one individual. Fight for survival, unawareness, the succession of life? It’s hard to tell as white petals, presumably snow, is dropped from a set of steps by a single figure and then a pair of figures, and finally a cascade from the flys.

Overall, as you probably have noticed, I paid a great deal of attention to the props and the setting. While dancing extremely well, it seemed that the dancers’ emotions got lost in the structure around them, Given the emotional
background was Nature, however, perhaps that’s a just assessment.

K.T.Nelson and Brenda Way collaborated on The Invention of Wings; it was supported by Matthew Antaky’s light and scenic design. There was a sound score by Olafur Arnalds, Ben Frost and Ben Juodvalkis. Apparently comissioned for Ai Weiwei’s Alcatraz Exhibit, the theme dealt with suppression, starting with the Yayoi Kambara’s disrobing, then wrapping herself and rolling in a strip of cloth after two writers filled a lengthy strip of paper from backstage to front with scribbles. It was torn up by two men, apparently censors. What followed was apparently a study in repression; but for all the devices and movements, I failed to register to my fairly common mind signs of mind and body control.

The ten dancers in the company were terrific, dancing full out, if I did miss some recognizable emotions. I also commend the tribute to Yayoi Kambara who leaves ODC this year to explore her own choreographic potential. While I may not comprehend choreographic manifestations, I applaud the class act ODC maintains when it comes to recognizing dancers and collaborators. Maybe some day the light will dawn for me under my private bodhi tree.

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Amy Seiwert’s Imagery Summer Series at ODC Performance Gallery

30 Jul

Last year it was three women choreographers; this year, Sketch 3, Amy’s sub-title was Expectations, selecting Val Caniparoli and Max Brew for two of the three dances seen at ODC, July 25-28. The trio provided an exhilarating evening with eight splendid dancers who enjoyed generous emphasis from all three choreographers.  The audience, filled with long-time dance professionals, added to the excitement.

The respective titles were Brew’s Awkward Beauty, Canaparoli’s Triptych and Seiwet’s own The Devil Ties My Tongue with dancers Brandon Freeman, Rachel Furst, James Gilmer, Sarah Griffin, Weston Krukow, Annali Rose, Katherine Wells, and Ben Needham Wood.

I took away one or two images from each work crystallizing for me choreographic intent, lucid, minted.

Val Caniparoli’s Triptych was inspired by Lalage Snow’s images of British veteran soldiers of Afghanistan, “We Are The Not Dead” before, during and after with music by John Tavener and Alexander Balanescu.  Christine Darch clothed the eight dancers in khaki fatigues close enough to military field garb to reinforce the imagery.  Caniparoli approximated march formations as the recruits submitted to discipline and then very carefully depicted combat situations, ending in the ensemble moving forward, faces expressionless, to face the audience.

Classical ballet movements linked with the awkwardness of combat necessity worked powerfully on the imagination.  I remember James Gilmer’s reaching with a grand ronde de jamb with his arms outstretched as his working leg reached second, as if to say “Why?” and one moment where Brandon Freeman caught an anguished Katherine Wells as she lept forward; for a moment the two were  majestic, a momentary sculptural triumph.  Triptych is one of Canaparoli’s strongest works since his perennially popular Lambarena.

Max Brew’s Awkward Beauty, music by Dan Wool, was memorable for me because of its tenuousness; in particular there was a downstage right pas de deux between two men, the tentative connection and motions towards and away – “Do I really want to get involved with this guy?”, a clear statement regarding male friendship and/or sexual involvement.

Seiwert’s contribution, “The Devil Ties My Tongue” with Olafur Arnalds’s score, utilized the pas de deux in several places, the lifts exciting, circling around the supporting body, once or twice a woman.  I remember Sarah Griffin aloft at an angle, arms and legs like a strong calligraphic exclamation, Chinese calligraphic style.  At the end Brandon Freeman supported a wavering, quivering Katherine Wells struggling with some inner message, but unable to support its import standing.

The dancing was superb, the choreographing intriguing and hope abundant that 2014 will provide Sketch Four.

Robert Moses at the Lam Research Center Theater

8 Feb

Robert Moses is one of the most idiosyncratic choreographers currently working in the San Francisco Bay Area.  His moving voice, spatial and verbal, is very much concerned with social justice as well as the African American existence, historical and contemporary.  Unlike Joanna Haigood, he doesn’t rely on site-specific inspiration, even though he can deal with historical events.  But his work usually is seen within the confines of a proscenium arch.  If I were try to align him with the spectrum of African American choreographers I’ve seen in the past fifty plus years, I would say he is closest in spirit to the late Ed Mock.  Both men were singular   dancers who later taught and choreographed, although Mock relied on his unique vocal sounds, as special as Bobbie McFerrin.  Moses’ hand and arm vocabulary are his special movement signature.  And Moses has come to rely on speech, usually declamatory.

Moses is a spinner of tales, but I remember a pas de deux he created and performed I believe to Brahms.  I wish I could locate the program when he danced in an Isadora Duncan Dance Awards Program at Krissy Keefer’s Brady Street.  Dressed in simple white, Moses and his partner danced around the periphery of that wonderful space and down the middle.  In retrospect it was almost a ritual baptism, an immersion in its formality.  To the best of my knowledge Moses has never repeated that choreographic quality again.

As he gathered his group, Moses danced at the Cowell Theatre, University of San Francisco’s Gershwin’s Theater where San Francisco Ballet once performed, the Kanbar Theatre at San Francisco’s Jewish Community Center and recent seasons at Yerba Buena Center’s Theatre, now called The Lam Research Center.  Here, Nevabawarldapece, Moses’ latest choreography was premiered January 25-27 with a wonderful set of musicians: Laure Love, Corey Harris, Chris “Peanut” Whitley, Gordon “Saxman” Jones, Kenneth “Trini Joe,” Joseph, Jayson “Brother” Morgan, Woody Simmons. The writer Carl Hancock Rux was stationed with the musicians at upper stage left.

The Robert Moses’ Kin company numbered ten dancers: Brendan Barthel, Crystaldawn Bell, Vincent Chavez, Norma Fong, Carly Johnson, Dexandro “D” Montalvo, Jeremy Bennon-Neches, Josie Garthwaite Sadan, Victor Talledos, Katherine Wells.

The declamatory qualities of Carlo Hancock Rux imposed themselves over the loosely structured movement of the ten dancers, intrusive with his rational vocabulary, now so standard in analyzing contemporary urban society and current affairs.  Those wonderful dancers, particularly Crystaldawn Bell and Katherine Wells, were moving with their unique styles with this arrogant voice and words intoning around and above them.  The dancers moved within Moses’ design, sometimes in clumps, sometimes in lines, frequently in individual variations to the sounds of the musicians.  Rux later toned down his rhetoric if reciting words, names and ideas of virtually every problem plaguing the U.S. culture for the last twenty or thirty years.  If there was anything to understand from the divergence of dancers and declamation, it was the sometimes aimless,occasional purposeful nature of the human being against the word blanket obscuring us from the joys of dailiness or the cohesion required in complex problem solutions.

I’m sure the supporting musicians and the inclusion of Rux played a part in the impressive list of sponsors for  Nevabawarldapece.  Moses deserves the support.  But I do keep remembering his Gershwin, Kanbar and Brady Street moments and hope to see some of that early magic reframed with the current dancers.

Combating Cancer With a Dance Gala, June 6

10 Jun

San Francisco Ballet soloists Garen Scribner and James Sofranko bonded not only with a shared dressing room, but over their concerns regarding cancer.  Scribner was in touch with the Fremont-based research firm, Cancer Prevention Institute of California; the two dancers formed a plan to present a dance gala benefitting the organization June 6 at San Francisco’s Herbst Theater in the Civic Center’s Veterans’ Building.  Two other San Francisco Ballet dancers, Sarah Van Patten and Luke Willis, co-chaired a silent auction.

Scribner-Sofranko enjoyed managerial coaching from SFB’s dance enthusiasts the Pascarellis, plus corporate and individual sponsors to cover production costs, netting $100,000 for the Institute.  Alphabetically, the companies cooperating in the event were: AXIS Dance Company, Ballet San Jose, Amy Siewart’s Im-aj-re, Alonzo King Lines Ballet, Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, ODC/Dance,  Robert Moses’ Kin,  San Francisco Ballet, Smuin Ballet, tinypistol, Zhukov Dance Theater.

The producers arranged a judicious balance of dance genres performed by members of the  eleven Bay Area ensembles. The Gala also served a second important function; the selections  exposed audience members to styles and companies previously seen primarily by die-hard dance lovers  attending everything.  Herbst’s stage is box-like – not exactly the best for dance, though many of local  dance history’s memorable performances occurred in the space.

Yuan Yuan Tan, solicitously partnered by Pierre-Francois Vilanoba, launched the program with the adagio to J.S. Bach’s Concerto No. 5. in Helgi Tomasson’s 2004 ballet 7 for 8.  The lighting did little for either dancer, but Tan’s lingering developpes and arabesques were all there.

Robert Moses’ 1998 solo Descongio found Katherine Wells in little girl white bloomers and tunic dancing to Chopin’s Sonata for cello and piano.  Willowy Wells rendered every shoulder roll or hand gesture assigned with her usual lyricism, though one wonders why each note required a gesture or a quirk.

Alex Ketley’s To Color Me Different, created for Sonsheree Giles and Rodney Bell of AXIS Dance company in 2008, registered the first strong departure in Gala formulas with  Bell’s masterful manipulation of his wheelchair. Giles, with constant flying leaps, seeming to assault Bell, was intense, both demonstrating why the pair earned an Izzie Ensemble Award in 2008.

Junna Ige and Maykel Solas from Ballet San Jose switched emphasis to George Balanchine as Broadway-style  choreographer in his take on “Embraceable You” from the Gershwin-inspired  1970 skillful froth Who Cares.

Maurya Kerr, one-time Alonzo King dancer, combines some of King’s torso inflections, but  manages to make a statement in her ensemble tinypistol.  Here it was Babatunji Johnson in the 2012 Freak Show; she gives her interpreters a total workout.

Sarah Van Pattern evoked the peculiarly haunting Andrew Sisters’ song “I Can Dream Can’t I?”, from Paul Taylor’s 1991 Company B,  backed by Matthew and Benjamin Stewart.

The first half of the Gala ended with Meredith Webster and Zack Tang dancing a pas de deux from Alonzo King’s 2006 ballet The Hierarchical Migration of Birds and Mammals.

K.T. Nelson required Anne Zivolich, dressed in a chic black floor-length gown, to fly all over the stage as well as dust it in the 2005 Shenanigans; Dennis  Adams appeared strategically, moving minimally, all in best fluttering hen to nonchalant  cock tradition.  They got it together,  Zivolich ending up in an odd-angled catch.

Frances Chung and Matthew Stewart continued the duet pattern in a lyrical setting to Robert Schumann music created in 2011 by James Sofranko.

Also created in 2011 was Amy Seiwart’s Divergence interpreted by Roberto Cisneros, now with Sacramento Ballet after wunderkund appearances with Smuin Ballet.

Yuri Zhukov gave the Gala a world premiere, Ember, using Martyn Garside and David Lagerqvist and a spotlight.  First one dancer tracked the other with a rolling spotlight, then spotter and spotted roles reversed, all accented by the swerving light and occasional abrupt blackout.  The men, nude to the waist and in white trousers, eventually confronted each other before a quick blackout.

The Smuin Tango Palace, 2003 brought Jane Rehm and Shannon Hurlburt as the first couple, toying with Hurburt’s fedora, on, off, on to Rehm’s head, off and tossed by Hurlburt, she in an elaborate short, provocative garment, he dressed  George Raft style.  Luscious Robin Cornwell followed with Jonathan Dummer, minus antagonism. Seeing the number on the program, I  hoped the selection would include Smuin’s sizzling male duet; no luck – just two separate couples and the wonderful tango recording.

Maria Kochetkova and Joan Boada appeared in Christopher Wheeldon’s 2008 pas de deux Within the Golden Hour, dressed in seafoam blue-green, quite the most costumed dancers in the program with Kochetkova’s head adorned like a ‘Twenties socialite.  Their melting pas de deux to Vivaldi earned a prolonged applause, along with the whistles, shouts and clapping  sprinkled through the program.

An excerpt from the 2011 Light Moves with the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company closed the  Gala with its distinct change of pace and energy and Jenkins’ somewhat typical penchant for tussle as a choreographed form of  engagement.

As the dancers all emerged on stage, some already changed for the reception, the audience rendered the best possible recognition, a standing, shouting ovation.  It had been a definite dance high, and it just might become an annual affair.  I can think of other ensembles to be considered.

Diablo Ballet’s 2010-2011 Season’s Ending at Shadowlands

16 Jul

This talented eight dancer ensemble is completing its seventeenth season across the Bay from San Francisco.  It has provided a venue for chamber-sized works by K.T. Nelson of ODC/SF’s artistic staff, Val Caniparoli of S.F. Ballet, Christopher Stowell now heading Oregon Ballet Theater and its dancers eager to further their aesthetic exploration.  The company has enlisted the talents of Katherine Wells, an extraordinarily versatile dancer native to the Bay Area and
Tatyana Martyanova, tall and elegant, originally from Odessa via Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal and other companies.

For this season’s round up both David Fonnegra and Tina Kay Bohnstedt contributed works, along with revivals by Sally Streets and Nelson with a local premiere by Caniparoli.The program started, however, with Balanchine’s pas de deux from Apollo with Mayo Sugano as Terpsichore and Jenkins Pelaez as a warm and  gallant Apollo.  The raised platform arrangement at Shadowlands and the resulting low ceiling clearance did not lend much magic to this excerpt from Mr. B’s classical milestone, but the two dancers made the best of it.  Sugano must have enjoyed the opportunity which would have eluded her during her seasons with San Francisco Ballet.

The local premiere of Caniparoli’s Gustav’s Rooster to Hoven Droven’s music teamed Katherine Wells with Rory Hohenstein who has guested during the season.  The two were well-matched in size, physique and their ability to embrace quirky choreography deftly. One-time San Francisco Ballet soloist who joined Christopher Wheeldon’s short-lived ensemble Morphoses,  Hohenstein’s singular abilities with idiosyncratic choreography has been missed. One wants to see him join Wells more often.

Sally Streets’ Encore, created for the company in 1996 for two couples, was danced in memory of her son dancer Robert Nichols, who died this spring. Pelaez partnered Martyanova and Edward Stegge joined Sugano in this tribute.

David Fonnegra shared Tina Kay Bohnstedt’s take on “My Way” with Hohenstein, mericfully minus Frank Sinatra’s voice.  Bohnstedt. temporarily side-lined by surgery, gave the men large sweeping movements, body stretches and jumps to accent the rise and fall of the music.

Nelson’s Walk before Talk, premiered by the company in 1998, completed the program with Wells prominent at the beginning, followed by an energetic rendition by the entire troupe.

A discussion followed the performance with audience and dancers exchanging views and background information.  Caniparoli also was on hand to comment.

Diablo Ballet has recently been awarded a grant from The San Francisco Foundation to support its outreach program in the Contra Costa Public Schools.