“Sketch 8” Origin Stories

Amy Seiwert’s “IMAGERY
June 30, 2018
ODC Theater,  San Francisco

Contemporary Innovation

It’s clear now, to any watchful dance viewer, that the lines between ballet and contemporary (used to be called ‘modern’) dance are blended and blurred. As I write, the large California contact improvisation group is meeting in Berkeley. That form, which grew from modern dance, involves the practice of lifting, carrying, floor rolling and endless bodily contact between movers. The three choreographers for “Sketch 8” employ those practices throughout their choreography. It is basic vocabulary now along with the usual pirouettes, arabesques, jumps and positions of classic ballet. Only in Seiwert’s “Unlocking/Elpis” did the women wear point shoes. Although their movement is lively and well executed, still, the dynamics tend to be at one level. Gravity demands strength; gravity dictates descent onto the floor.

Seiwert, who has just been appointed as director of the Sacramento Ballet has, since 2011, encouraged innovation in ballet choreography. For this program she invited Jennifer Archibald and Gabrielle Lamb, both experienced choreographers, to offer new works that are challenging to their usual programming. Lamb’s work, “Lacunae” was the first offering. She writes, “In my choreography, I want to engage with this invisible field of turbulence, (air, wind, breath and atmosphere) so fundamental to our existence.” To music by Maanja Nuut, the eight skilled dancers form and reform elegant space patterns, breaking into groups of four and returning to the whole. They open and close their hands in detailed gesture. It is an elegant, demanding work,

Archibald in “Shutter” offers a similar vocabulary, suggesting that, “the process… reflected how many layers of urban movement research can seamlessly fit into classical ballet.” The dynamics of this piece to music by Anna Thorvalsdottir Seskomol and Agnes MacRae, was slower and smoother in execution. Solos, duets and the group fused, reformed and generally provided another pleasing work.

Seiwert admits that narrative is a challenge for her. With accompaniment and narration by Christian Lien (on viola), she built the mythological story of “Elips” the creature that remains in Pandora’s box when Zeus releases the troubles of mankind. Elips represents hope and, captured, struggles to get out. The dance, performed in masks and using netting, illustrates that struggle. At the finale, she is free. Seiwert feels it is a metaphor for our time. I believe Beth Ann Masinoff took the solo role.

The brilliant dancers of the company are: Sarah Cecilia, Alysia Chang, Aidan Deyoung, Matthew Doolin, Joseph A. Hernandez, Beth Ann Maslinoff, Kelsey Mcfalls and Austin Meitten. All provide outstanding talent; Deyoung and Chang stand out as special.

Siewert promises that “Sketches” will continue in future summers. We look forward too these special programs of innovative work.

Joanna G. Harris

Photo # DSC 3816
Choreographer: Amy Seiwert
Piece: UNLOCKING/ELPIS (world premiere)
Pictured: Amy Seiwert’s Imagry