Walking Distance Dance Festival


June 2-10, 2017 ODC Commons and Theater, San Francisco

Platform” Liane Burns and Charles Slender-White – “Deep South” Film, Alex Ketley

Deep South” from left: Aline Wachsmuth, Katie Faulkner and, downstage, Maurya Kerr Macintosh HD:Users:joanna:Desktop:From left, Aline Wachsmuth, Katie Faulkner and, downstage, Maurya Kerr in The Foundry's Deep South. Photo by Oxana Ermolova.jpg

ODC is sponsored the “Walking Distance Dance Festival” June 2-10 to “offer us the opportunity to experience the juxtaposition of different choreographic voices.” (Quote from program notes by Maire Tollon, ODC Writer-In-Residence.) The pieces are short (usually one hours works) that have been developed in the last two years and address contemporary issues.

Platform” a duet for Burns and Slender-White was made in response to the album of the same name by Holly Herndon.

The two perform within a square wall framed by white hangings on which video excerpts of the dancer’s phrases are projected simultaneously as they are done live. Both display intense concentration, discipline and skill with their movement choices, a limited vocabulary of swings, twists, falls, stretches, and walks.

They allow themselves a period of rest on the floor. Theirs is an exercise in precision and selected limited choice. The performance deserves close watching, but this reviewer asks, “Is this event for others to watch?” or for the dancers to accomplish?

Deep South” has a deep social message. Ketley, creator of The Foundry, has brought contemporary dance to rural communities that have little or no previous exposure. There are previous episodes as part of a work, “No Hero.” “Deep South” completes the work. The dance is accompanied by a filmic artifact of their traveling interlaced with live performance.

The stage space is divided into sections that correspond to the various episodes encountered. Some dancers narrated the pieces, which, alas, are sometimes too soft to be heard, or too confused to be understood. If dancers speak, they must train to do so. The film sections nicely portray the encounters. It is not clear how the dance episodes reflect back to those encounters. One section, danced by Katie Faulkner is beautifully performed. Again, this reviewer finds the movement expression very personal and not very communicative, although the subject matter is vital and well intentioned. The dance group consists of Aline Wachsmuth, Katie Faulkner, Maurya Kwee, Natalie Grant, Katie Meyers Robyn Gerbaz, Manuelito Biag and David Maurice. Those who did the research in the South were Alex Ketley, Miguel Gutierrez, Sarah Woods and Michelle Boule.

Question: Do rural communities need or find concert modern dance useful? And how? Or is this projection from the dancers?


Joanna G Harris, PhD
2714 woolsey st berkeley, ca 94705
510. 205-6065
www. BeyondIsadora. com

Oakland Ballet – Spring Repertory Season 2017

A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Consort June 1-4, 2017

Odell Johnson Performing Arts Center at Laney College, Oakland

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Scott McMahan, Ramona Kelley, Domenico Luciano of Oakland Ballet Company in Graham Lustig’s “Consort”  –  Photo by John Hefti


Graham Lustig has returned to the Oakland Ballet, now as full time artistic director. In previous years Lustig has staged “The Nutcracker” at Christmas and, this past year, “Luna Mexicano” to “Dia de los Muertos” at Halloween. Now he brings us two enchanting events, both inspired by Shakespeare and the music, art and poetry of that time. His program, Discover Dance, reaches children in over a dozen schools. The children share in performance, as in this current one, where they are charmingly used as part of the company cast of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Consort,” a work in seven scenes, some accompanied by the excellent countertenor Dan Cromeenes and Lutenist Dominic Schaner, presented sonnets (some by Compton; others by Shakespeare) to promote “consort.” The verb is defined as “to harmonize, fraternize or associate with”. The dancers accomplish this in various groups, duets and trios, sometimes speaking the words themselves, more often to the lovely music. Dressed in charming, mostly white outfits (costumes by Christopher Dunn) the women flirt, cajole, reject and adapt admirably to the young consorts who attract them. There are lovely scenes and lively dancing. Many of the duets and group work is characterized by complex lifts and falls, which, although heightening the strength and athleticism of the dancers, is sometimes a bit “out of style” with the tender lyricism of the poetry and music. Lustig has found marvelous Elizabethan images to project on the backdrop.


A Midsummer Night’s  Dream” has been transformed into ballet by many choreographers, Nijinska, Balanchine, Liam Scarlett and no doubt others. Here, Lustig has brought the story line to SF. The “changeling’ boy is a local kid who is sent to bed. The “dream” is his dream! The lovely fairies appear in gorgeous colors; there are tiny fairies and hobgoblins as well as Shakespeare ‘s cast; the lovers, Hermia, Lysander, Helena, Demetrius and of course Titania and Oberon, Puck and the Mechanics featuring Calvin Thomas the funny transformed Bottom. The scenes unfold quickly and the dancing is delightful. Ramona Kelley as Titania and Domenico Luciano as Oberon dominate the drama with their complex acting and dance roles, illustrating and expanding the couple’s tension and exuberant resolution.  Theirs is a gorgeous final pas de duex, Kelley, small but strong and skilled can sometimes dominate the tall Luciano who handles her with fine aplomb.

The lovers, Lydia McRae, Scott McMahan, Alysia Chang and Vincent Chavez add charm to the various quarrels and the happy resolutions. Felipe Leon as Puck is amusing and clever as Oberon’s ‘henchman” as is Calvin Thomas as Bottom. The children in their various accompanying roles are delightful.

It is a real gift to Oakland to have Lustig’s talent and company with us.  The city may still have the Warriors and other teams, but the Oakland Ballet should be high on the list as an East Bay treasure.



Joanna G Harris, PhD
2714 woolsey st berkeley, ca 94705
510. 205-6065
www. BeyondIsadora. com

Flyaway Productions – “The Right to Be Believed”

May 25-June 3, 2017 (Thurs/Fri evenings: 8:30 & 9:30 PM)

Hastings Law College: The Wall, Golden Gate Avenue SF

On the Wall

It was a chilly night in San Francisco. The wind blew cold. The choreographer thanked the audience wearing a winter coat. Nevertheless, the six dancers of Flyaway Productions climbed down the 85-foot wall at Hastings Law College, accomplishing the superhuman feats that define this group’s skill.

At first we see one dancer at a time, descending from above. Each presents the swinging, twisting, summersaulting skills that astonish us, safe below.

One text that accompanies a dancer concerns the conflicts of abortion.

Then a duet occurs. At first, it is a lonely poignant event, during which at the solo dancer curls and closes in. She is joined by a companion and the energy changes to one of ease and extension. At the finale all six dancers move across the wall in a long line of swinging and release. (Of course all are rigged and use the rigging as support throughout). The events last 30 minutes.

Jo Kreiter, the artistic director of Flyaway conceived this work as a response to various legal and social occasions through which women are “doubted, de-valued and dismissed.” The dancers of Flyaway are champions, demonstrating the heroic abilities of women.

The dancers are: Bianca Cabrera, Sonsherre Giles, MaryStarr Hope, Yayoi Kambara, Megan Lowe and Sonya Smith. Other credits include: Rigging Design by Karl Gillick. The extraordinary lighting is by Matthew Antaky. Projection design, Ian Winters, costume, Jamielyn Duggan, Stage Manager, Pat Mahoney, Production manager Kathy Rose, Music, FR333 feat Astu, and Photo Journalism by Lynn Johnson. Bravo to all!

Once again Jo Kreiter and Flyaway Productions has given SF audiences an amazing experience. For 21 years they have danced on walls and stages, inside and out, in out-of-the-way places and close at hand. Kreiter tells me that next year the company will be presented by Cal Performances! Make sure you’re there, even if you need coats, hats and gloves.

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Joanna G Harris, PhD
2714 woolsey st berkeley, ca 94705
510. 205-6065
www. BeyondIsadora. com

“Known Once” – Liss Fain Dance

May 19-21, 2017 Z Space, San Francisco

Stories Told and Danced

Liss Fain and her dancers, Sonia Dale, Katherine Hawthone, Megan Kurashige, Shannon Kurashige and Sarah Dionne Woods-Ladue have created an evening of story telling and dance within a unique setting at Z Space. The stories are told with and without musical accompaniment. The set, a tall grey structure with two doors, moves up and downstage. The overall effect is very dramatic and for the most part, very effective.

Costumed in aqua-blue (shorts, pants, dresses by Mary Domenico) the group of five opens downstage to mime Charles story, about a childhood on a boat. The dancers clearly illustrate the boat’s movements, the chores and the boat’s environment. It is very effective.

After the set (by Matthew Antaky) moves upstage sound scores (by Dan Wool, Bach, Pee Wee King, etc.) accompany the story telling which sometimes gets obscured in the sound. The dance grows more expansive. Fain’s vocabulary uses ‘release technique’ an endless series of lifts, falls, balances, holds and contact between dancers. . It is amazing to watch, yet, to this reviewer it suggests dramatic relationships that do not develop. The dancers are highly skilled and admirable, each in her ability to master all technical difficulties. The overall effect however is “bound flow.”

The set moves forward for the final story from those told by ninety-year old seniors at the Redwoods. Once again the simplified movement tells the story clearly. Each dancer has a solo entering and exiting the set’s doors. Each dancer demonstrates a unique and effective vocabulary. Bravo!

Joanna G. Harris

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Joanna G Harris, PhD
2714 woolsey st berkeley, ca 94705
510. 205-6065
www. BeyondIsadora. com

Ramon & Jessica: Roses are Blue

Anything that comes out of the mouths of Ramon and Jessica results in a feel good high that lasts until morning. Tonight, Ramon (aka Dina Maccabee), Jessica (aka Jesse Olsen Bay) and their all-star a cappella ensemble performed Roses are Blue, threading their complex music with Gertrude Steins children’s tale,”The World is Round. You can’t go wrong with a capella and Stein – they are made for each other.

It wasn’t as easy as saying , “a rose is a rose is a rose” – their first explosive performance in 2016, with loose ends sticking out, generated so much enthusiasm that an Indiegogo fund raiser was launched – and those funds birthed this performance. The polish shows, costumes are a rummage sale mix of reds and oranges, which brings out the characters of these eclectic performers – and that is important because they not only sing but act and mime the story lines. Screen projections were used also – but did not do much to embellish the captivating voices.The sets are an assortment of chairs in an almost electric blue that standout on the dark stage. The interlocutor – Harold Pierce has been added and is a great addition in helping the story line, which can be necessary with Stein’s free floating language. He also took on the role of Roses’ loyal dog with a stunning human to animal transition. This is a coming of age story of Rose who questions her identity – if she were not named Rose would she still be Rose and Willy – who is always. “I Willy”.

The a capella performers – and I list them all here because, though all strikingly different, together they made a wonderful evening musical storytelling. Of course there is Ramon and Jessica, the creators and also performers, others were Caitlin, Tabancay Austin, Lorin Benedict, Tony Domenick, Ron Shalom; they are all skilled musicians in their own right. Molly Aaronson-Gelb is the webullient director

Performed at the ACT casual performance space – The Costume Shop Theater, 1117 Market St, San Francisco (right at the Civic Center BART station exit). Tickets $25. Playing Friday, Saturday, Sunday 5/19- 21 (2017), 8:pm


Photo courtesy of Jonathan Spector, Artistic Director, Just Theater