Tag Archives: Tobin Del Cuore

Intelligent, Colloquial and Smart: SF Dance Works Premiere

26 Jun

SF Dance Works, which gave its premiere performance June 23 at the ODC Performance Gallery,the co-presenter by the bye, elicited a wave of nostalgia for me, thanks to the audience and their enthusiastic support for the dancers and the material they spun before the eyes of these clearly vocal fans.

Well they might. James Sofranko, the founder and artistic director of SF Dance Works, is not only a soloist with San Francisco Ballet, and company member since 2000, he also has co-organized a yearly benefit for cancer research. Additionally, he has choreographed at least two works for San Francisco Ballet’s spring student showcases, reflecting the arrangement smarts he absorbed while at Juilliard Music Institute’s Dance Department. He also has incorporated former Julliard classmate Anne Zivolich-Adams in the inaugural cast, a dancer much missed in the ODC Dance Company.

What wafted over me during the program was the remembered feeling of San Francisco Ballet’s summer programs on 18th Avenue and the rooting nature of the audiences who peopled the risers in the upstairs converted studio those summer weekend programs. These dancers and choreography, to be sure, are infinitely more experienced and savvy, but the ambiance isn’t easily repeated or imitated. Thursday night’s performance, however, evoked those earnest and active days.

The five-part program with one intermission started and ended with the six-dancer ensemble which included former SF Ballet soloists Dana Genshaft and Garrett Anderson, the former now working in modern dance at the company’s school and Anderson, after a stint abroad, with Chicago’s Hubbard Street Dance Company. The additional dancers were Amber Neumann, a Joffrey Company dancer, Ben Needham Wood from the Smuin Company, Kendall Teague, originally hired by Dennis Nahat for Ballet San Jose, and Tobin del Cuore, another Juilliard Alum, with Hubbard credits as well as Lar Lubovitch and Azure Barton, Houston Grand Opera and Chicago’s Lyric Opera.

These seven dancers graced the inventions of Lar Lubovitch, Alejandro Cerrudo, Penny Saunders and the local talents of Dana Genshaft and James Sofranko. The works were enhanced by by Heather Basarab’s lighting, abetted by Rayan O’Gara as well as Jason Brown and a variety of music, the most notable being Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major, and a portion of Franz Liszt.

Penny Saunders’ Joe and Ida, a co-production with Cedar Rapids Ballet supplied a quirky boy meets girl, the sextet seeming a contemporary take on Robbins’ Fancy Free, however minus sailors, shoes and costumed minimally by Saunders and Melissa Leitch. Saunders, another Harid Conservatory graduate like Sofranko, has Hubbard Street and Cedar Lake credits and is now in a three-year residency with Grand Rapids Ballet where Patricia Barker is artistic director.

One can see that this boy-girl encounter can enliven a contemporary program. It’s brim full of body-parts exploration, from the tentative reach of a hand to rotator cuff manipulation, torso undulation and abrupt shifts in weight and position of the legs and feet. I was amazed to see just what Saunders could elicit from a skilled human body. With six composers in a sound mix, Joe and Ida invites comparison to the endless apps on a smart phone.

Dana Genshaft’s Portrait, inspired by the 19th century French novelist George Sand, was the most staged production in that the work possessed floor projections placing dancer Amber Neumann in context – a field of flowers, a scene of Paris in the mid-19th century and then a neutral where Neumann is divested of Karin Mossen’s black horsehair hoop, replaced by the trousers for which Sand was so noted. An intriguing subject, Neumann spent a fair amount of the Max Richter-Franz Liszt score reaching forward and swirling, suggesting protest and groping for an acceptable ambiance.

Bob Crosby’s music gave Sofranko the basis of displaying Anne Zivolich-Adams’ perky side, quick shifts of direction, abrupt elevation, and her dry “Okay, try me.” Next time I hope Sofranko explores her dramatic depth. But it simply was great to see her prodigious talent showcased.

The program’s first half finished with Lar Lubovich’s male pas de deux from Concerto Six Twenty Two to W.A.Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A major, a work associated with the AIDS crisis. Danced by Garrett Anderson and Tobin Del Cuore, it is wonderful blend of so-called modern and classical ballet which was expressed without embellishments, but filled with a range of tenderness, sensitivity and respect that a deep bond between two men can possess.

 

SFDanceworks. Garrett Anderson, Tobin Del Cuore in Concerto Six Twenty-Two by Lar Lubovitch. Photo by Andrew Weeks

Following intermission the sextet completed the program with Alejandro Cerrudo’s Likety Split, premiered in 2006 by the Hubbard Street Dance Project. Another semi-comic encounter of the sexes with the inevitable hesitations and awkwardness, it seemed that Penny Saunders had absorbed the situation and provided a more lively comment.

For the rationale behind Sofranko’s choices, let me recommend Toba Singer’s interview for Culture Vulture. The aim has been well interpreted, the material reasonably varied; the second season will doubtless build on this auspicious, beautifully danced beginning.

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.
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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.