Tag Archives: Maurya Kerr

Azure Means Blue, Here Blue Equals Water, February 7

10 Feb

S.F. Performances brought Canadian-born Azure Barton and her seven dancers to Yerba Buena’s Lam Research Theatre February 7 and 8. Her press information provided a barrage of impressive information read only after the performance concluded. Arriving at 7:30, just as the performance was starting, I didn’t have a clue what I was going to see. The announcer stated Awaa, was to be sixty-nine minutes long without intermission. Such shorter, non-intermission works seem to becoming the performance norm for many modern companies.
Projections were winding down just as I was seated; then a figure, gracefully stretched, silhouetted before a red circular disk, emerged. The young man, beautifully muscled and proportioned, hobbled half-way to his feet as he negotiated his way forward, gradually becoming upright, moving his arms with growing sureness and undulating his torso standing profile to the audience. As he emerged in full control, a stage front scrim rose into the fly space.

Suddenly the sound system provided us with water sounds, lots of it, no trickle down effects. It mingled with music and the stage suddenly was peopled with the seven dancers in pre-determined positions around the stage. The collective port de bras were wonderfully fluid, even semi-swimming, breast stroke and Australian crawl in formation. One dancer wore a pale blue tee-thirt and dark trousers; the other five men were mostly stripped to the waist and wearing white trousers.

Lara Barclay the lone girl, appeared in nondescript grey, near turtleneck and trousers. As already mentioned, I didn’t a clue about choreographer or dancers, but the unity and the manner in which they conveyed fluidity and the qualities of water I recognized reading the credits. The underwater nature of the piece became prominent in the final screen projections. For the final tableau, instead of the red circle, Barclay appeared in lengthy red; the original dancer folded himself into her arms.

It was eerie, beautiful and the dancers, Jonathan Emanuell Alsberry, Tobie Del Cuore, Lora Barclay, William Briscoe, Tobin Del Cuore, Thomas House, Nicholas Korkos, Danvon Rainey, were superb. Four of the dancers studied at Juilliard, Barclay at the National Ballet of Canada, Nicholar Korkas has local credits with Lines Ballet School, dancing in Maurya Kerr’s Tinypistol, Robert Moses’ Kin and Yuri Zhukov’s Dance Theatre. Other credits include international ballet companies and a stint with Barton’s residency in Mikhail Baryshnikov’s center in New York City. all definitely impressive.

I can’t resist mentioning an idiosyncratic observation: my friend Dan Henry, one-time professional ice skater with the Ice Capades, said he had never seen a group of men with the same pectoral formation.

The press information stated that Azure Barton’s genesis for Awaa, rose from a dream where she was in a rocking chair under water, and that Awaa was an effort explore the shifts between masculine and feminine. A name like Azure gives her a head start; it simply was a matter of time before her given name led to something special. I would enjoy seeing the work a second time;l the audience was equally enthusiastic.


Tiny Pistol at West Wave Dance Festival August 27

17 Sep

After twenty-two years, West Wave Festival seems to have ended its late summer quest to present, commission and advocate for new dances, most of them modern.  Joan Lazarus, who has produced them, arranged funding and set programs, presided over this one-night performance featuring Maurya Kerr’s Tiny Pistol. Lazarus acknowledged  those who contributed the range of efforts required to execute this or any festival.  If there is an actual demise, and not a twenty-third festival blame it on the economy.

Having seen Likha’s celebration of its twenty years of performance and the sweeping summary of the Philippines’ 6000 island culture in dance form the afternoon before, Tiny Pistol separated itself not only by the Pacific Ocean, but by a diametrically different dance approach, the cultural collective in stark contrast to individual angst in fluctuating contemporary post-industrial western life.  Outside of hunting and gathering cultures, nothing could differ more in movement form.  The difference appears, essentially, in function versus individualized psychic flagellation.

If you ever saw Maurya Kerr when she was one of Alonzo King’s Ballet artist, you know how splendidly elegant she was; the overuse  use of adjectives helps to describe the narrow-boned body with its shape, the small head, the intense presence – Dovima in evening dress with the Elephant is a fair analogy.  You simply knew she would be distinctive in whatever she undertook.

I, with others, never expected her to explore the dysfunctional side of the psyche, our youth or our culture; it’s not a pretty subject, but an reality unavoidable using public transportation – tatoos, mussed hair, trousers perilously low on the hips, tee-shirts with raunchy messages, multi-tints on dreadlocks, multiple piercings – ears, lip, nostril, eyebrow, the tongue.  Each of such choices conveys something about the personality, the age group, the habits, the mind set, any collective pressure. Kerr explores the psyche in motion behind such facades in her three works: Buck, Sick with Joy, Freak Show a premiere.

David H. K. Elliott and Glynnis Slater supplied lighting design and costumes. The dancers were  Christopher De Vita, Robyn Gerbaz, Babatunji Johnson, Nick Korkos, Emilie Leriche, Casie O’Kane, Grace Luise Stern, Kimberly White, Megan Wright, all possessing technique to spare and most with some or extensive exposure to the world of Lines Ballet and its program with Dominican University.  Erika Cahill mixed the music, drawn from five to thirteen sources, for the three works.

What fascinated me most about the three works was Kerr’s strong sense of structure behind the seeming chaos of stage patterns, the mind-boggling angles and thrusts of individual bodies  in  isolated pools of moving; suddenly arms raise briefly in classical positions,  symmetry of floor pattern unites the ensemble, entrances and exits reflect a clear classical foundation. Culture, perhaps the conventional form, remains underneath in Buck.  This symmetry also occurred in Freak Show, dancers aligned in a physical pyramid with its base upstage center, a welcome relief to the vast vocabulary of disjointed, perhaps drug promoted gestures and leg thrusts.

I could not begin to enumerate the variety of  quirky movements; I just remember they managed to be slightly different in each work, reflecting a prodigious command of the unfortunate anomalous message in the works, underscored by the complex, intrusive quality of the sound mix.

Clearly, with the thunderous audience response, I recognize the talent exhibited in the program.  The works touched recognizable areas of experience and emotion.  As a senior citizen, I just wished Kerr’s choreography did not reflect those troubling areas quite so keenly.

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.

West Wave’s Solo Night, August 15, ODC Theatre

23 Aug

Thank Joan Lazarus for selecting the solos – eight of them, not all danced by their creators. Thank Joan Lazarus also for selecting recognizable modern dance technique with many of the strengths of classical ballet.

ODC’s Theatre attracted quite a crowd for a Monday night – friends, colleagues, students to see eight essentially solo pieces, starting with Suzanne Beahrs “Dear Unica” with Molly Stinchfield’s drawings projected as she outlined the body of Julianna Monin and added embellishments to the she either spoke or had previously recorded.  Beahrs had previously attended U.C. Berkeley, which must account for her inclusion while Angela Don’s music was created along with her sound engineering responsibilities with Berkeley Repertory Theater.

Whoever Unica is , she enjoyed a detailed portrait of her strengths and abilities to be greater than the lines projected, the movements made and the sound and words employed. Overall, dancer Juliana Monin lacked the opportunity to dance with any freedom from the enveloping of crossing linear commentary.  An admirable collaboration, it left me questioning the point.

Maria Basile’s “Birthing The Ascension” with music by Thoth followed.  A nude hued costume displayed Basile’s  strong womanly  body and an unwavering technique where arm ended with a poised hand with fingers completing, extending the line or curve of her movement. A sense of the inevitable within the evanescence of dance was rarely more clearly stated.  Basile’s small body reminded one many great dancers have been far from Balanchine’s ideal,  endowed with elegant  curves and a sensuality alive and well in its disciplined expressive vehicle.

Sue Li-Jue continues to plumb aspects of her Asian heritage.  I remember seeing her explore the foot fetish of Chinese bound feet in a performance at The Asian Art Museum.  In “Not What She Seems”, Li Jue chose company member Frances Sedayao to explore alternating nonchalence, frustration and rebellion in an Asian woman’s working life, the score punctuated by the sounds of whirring sewing machines. Sedayao with her tiny physique embodied the contradictions ably.

Stacey Printz collaborated with tall  musician/performer Tommy Shepherd and a raised oblong platform for “If You Knew.” Her body sculpted in a black unitard, Printz explored the corners and edges of the board, at times raising and stretching her arms, the torso reaching across the rim of the board.  This went on a long time when it was obvious Printz would heist herself on to the black plank to continue her strong, impressive movement.  When she finally obliged us, completion seemed relatively fast.  Sans question, Printz’ work  was impressive, though what was conveyed besides prodigious control is a question.

After the intermission Erin Derstine danced “With” to a Yo-yo Ma recording of Bach’s Cello Suite #2, her back to the audience.  Whether on the floor or standing, Derstine’s  technique was laced with a sweet tenderness, which became obvious when Ben Estabrook’s film displayed the abdomen of a woman close to delivery.  After a section displaying the gentle pulse of the foetus, Derstine faced the audience, clearly in post-partum trim condition.  A few gestures of cradling appeared before she finished, making clear the linkage between Bach’s sonorous complexity and the gestation of new life.

Maurya Kerr came to Alonso King’s Lines’ Ballet following sojourns with Fort Worth and Pacific Northwest Ballets, a formed artist giving a dozen years to King’s choreography.  Now teaching in the Lines/Dominican BFA program and in Lines Ballet Training Program, she has guested locally and with Hollins University.  As a free lance choreographer, she set “Billy Tate” on Adam Peterson who responded admirably to her creation of a young man who begins
and ends like a medically identified spastic, in between demonstrating abundant control and technical vocabulary

Angela Mazziotta’s “The Last Ten” and Jazon Escultura’s “Chalk on the Sitewalk” completed the program.  Youthfulness was reflected choreographically in their somewhat diffident invention, though each possesses the requisite technique to  create appealing figures in performance.  Both are beginning seekers, earnest,  honest; a senior, I found it hard to respond to the messages they attempted.  However, they are on the path.

David H. K. Elliott gave each choreographer complementing  lighting.