Paramodernities #1

Hope Mohr Dance’s Bridge Project
ODC Theater SF Friday/Saturday Feb. 23/24, 2018

“Paramodernities #1”

Imagine this: You are in a small, familiar theater where you are used to seeing dance … of all kinds. Before you in a small table, a microphone and a tape recorder and a person. Upstage along a back wall is a screen. Now: The person tells you he will not speak: you will hear him on tape. Various questions are projected on the screen. A dancer (Netta Yerushalmy) appears. The non-person speaker (David Kishik) tells you Netta is “responding” to Nijinsky’s “Rite of Spring” (1913). There is no music, though the “Rite of Spring” became and is most famous for the music.

Netta is capable of the turned in feet, the jabs and twists of torso and the jerks and pulsations that caused riots in Paris when the work was first performed. Nijinsky broke the accustomed rules of classic ballet. What are we supposed to learn, to know and/or appreciate to this “response” to Nijinsky? This reviewer learned the Netta Yersalmy moves very well.

Next: a response too Merce Cunningham’s “Rainforest,” Sounddance,” “Points in Space,” “Beach Birds,” and “Ocean,” (1968-1991). These are dances I know. Two dancers (in ugly costumes) Brittany Engel-Adams and Marc Crousellat perform selected phrases. Crousellat is an exceptional dancer. Meanwhile the lectures proceed. The barely audible Claudia LaRocco is joined by Maxe Crandall and Jos Lavery. The lectures seem to be about Merce’s working process, but since the delivery of these talks is complex and never clear, it is difficult to know. The dancers continue without music, (John Cage, where are you?) except for a short loud song. Repetition without variation seems to be the motif.

Last, but most irritating is Thomas F. DeFrantz walking through and among the dancers, Oluwadamilare Ayorinde, Brittany Engel-Adams, Stanley Gambucci, Nicholas Leichter and Netta Yersahlmy. DeFrantz, carrying his computer is ‘responding’ to Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations” (1960). Most audiences enjoy “Revelations” as a series of hymns and spirituals, celebrating black rituals and beliefs. No! The lecturer is screaming at us that it is a response to slavery, to black homosexuality. He takes it all very personally, repeating over and over, “I am black.”

Did anyone ask Judith Jamison, Ailey’s lead dancer, what his intentions were? Did anyone call the Cunningham trust and speak to the many dancers who did his work? The movement of all dance works were reconstructed from films and although the dancers are to be congratulated on accomplishing the ‘techniques’ of the dance, the style, dynamics, rhythms and quality of the movement was often lacking. Alas! Did any of the lectures tell us about the ‘art of the dance,” the training, the execution of movement, the kinesthetic feedback or “feeling’ of the dance/dancer. No! We are lectured on philosophical statements that can hardly be defined. Modernity? What is it? The lectures gave us multiple unclear answers.

This reviewer acquired a headache and lost her glasses. The audience gathered to talk. There was great hesitancy in the group. After a lot of words, a lot of movement, no music and an intensity of a “mind blowing,” experience. It was time to leave. Yerushalmy offers a workshop today. Perhaps the intention, the work, the impact and even the dance will become clear.

Joanna G. Harris