Liss Fain Dance

Liss Fain Dance
“I Don’t Know and Never Will “
ODC Theater, San Francisco
March 1-3, 2018

Liss Fain’s work for “I Don’t Know…” is a collaborative effort with the dancers who “merged their voices with mine.” She began the work by reading old letters and “re-experiencing the deeply personal contact that my friends and I created.” It was a truly sentimental journey for her. She found the vocabulary with her dancers. For the most part, that consisted of multiple embraces and highly emotional lifts and floor falls. The percussion music by John Glenn, Nava Dunkkelman and Jacob Felix Heute was beautifully played on selected instruments. Nevertheless, with all good intentions and the participation of fine artists, the dynamics of the work did not fully come across to the audience.

The stage space was imaginatively constructed as a series of garden fences and live branches, brilliantly achieved by Matthew Antaky. The dancers move through and around these, sometimes making contact with the real planting dirt on the ground.

A narrator, Val Sinkler, is always present on the set, telling the story in a low commanding voice that was mostly audible but not always clear. The dancers, Sonja Dale, Megan Kurashige, Sharon Kuashige and Sara Dionee Woods-LaDue performed their remarkable copoiera like dance moves with ease but somehow without the excitement of strong interactive energy that is intrinsic in that dance form. Megan and Sharon were the outstanding dance artists, though all performed with devotion and clarity.

Fain asked the audience to stand and move through the set. Most people just stood still blocking those who were seated. Some audience members moved up into the house. This adventurous perspective was intriguing but often made the much used floor movements difficult to see over the show’s 90 minutes.

For this reviewer, the sentimental aspects dominated both the movement and the words. Dynamics in dance nor music were rarely varied and watching Fain combing the dirt on the floor at the end did  not bring resolution to the experience. There are good intentions in “I Don’t Know …” but under these circumstances they were not achieved.

Mary Domenico gets credit for the handsome black costumes.

Joanna G. Harris