Mary Sano

Mary Sano
September 7,8, 2018
ODC Theater San Francisco

Dancing Dreaming Isadora

Isadora Duncan, the San Francisco early 20th century dancer, considered the ‘mother’ of American modern dance, seems to attract more and more attention. Perhaps it is these times of feminist information and memory that has brought film, symposia, novels, and most recently new performances to honor the legacy of this fabulous woman.

Mary Sano is a native of Japan who became a protege of Mignon Garland in San Francisco in 1979. Garland was one of several students, performers and teachers who were inspired by Duncan’s dancing and her teaching, as well as the teaching of her sister, Elizabeth Duncan. Each gave a special unique vision of what Duncan dance is.

In this program, Sano and her company recreate several early dances attributed to Duncan. Set to Chopin mazurkas, waltzes and etudes, the company performs the charming skips, leaps, runs and waltz step that evoke ‘natural’ movement. The pieces are handsomely done in the short tunics that recall Duncan’s affinity to the Greeks.

More dramatic and more contemporary are the dramatic works. The “Funeral March” (Sonata No.2 Op.35, no 3) danced by guest Adrienne Ramm is a dance of mourning, supposedly evoked by the death of Duncan’s children. First in a purple toga and then in black, Ramm used powerful arm and torso gestures to transmit deep grief. Similarly, Sano, in red, danced the “Revolutionary Etude” (Scriabin, Etude Op.8, no.1).

Duncan had been in Russia at revolutionary times. Strong fists and gestures of protest while on her knees, gave a different dimension to the image of the Duncan dance. Sano also danced “Mother” (Scriabin, Etude Op.2, no 1), again evoking the grieving Duncan. Erica Tokaji, was the very accomplished musician for the works cited above.

(writer’s note: I danced the “Revolutionary Etude many years ago. That version required the dancer to keep her hands bound behind her back, struggling with twisted torso movements, until the hands were freed. Choreographic reconstruction is varied.

The second half of the program was of another dimension. Sano, her son Tony, and Paul Heller have made a film and a dance/theater production of “Ship of Dreams: Kanrin Maru” a story depicting Japan’s first cross-Pacific endeavor. The dancers are shown on screen and off (alas, not a great projection), depicting the “Grace and Fury of the storm” and “Perseverance.” Although the intention is very dramatic, the transition from film to stage is not aways successful.

The evening ended with “Letters from Isadora” during which the dancers spoke excepts from Duncan’s “The Art of the Dance.” At the end, four children from Sano’s classes joined the group. Sano is most sincere in her tributes and dedication, but for this reviewer, dancers who move and speak at the same time often do not project. A reader/narrator might be more effective. One child did a spontaneous cartwheel as she left the stage. Delightful!

Perhaps it is time for contemporary dancers to create new dances to honor Isadora. She probably would find much offer in these modern times,

Dancers of the company are: Christina Braun; Isabel Dow; Monique Goldwater, Tamoko Ide; Ukiko Nakazato; Amber Sky; and guest artist Adrienne Ramm.

Musicians for Part 2. Mutsuko Dohi (Piano); Hiroko Mizuno (Piano); Tony Sano Chapman) (Piano); Shoko Hikage (Koto); Gabriela Hofmeyer (Violin); Diana Rowan (Harp); and Jorge Maresch (Cello). Bravo to all!

Joanna G. Harris

Standing Still: Joe Goode

Joe Goode Performance Group
Standing Still”
Haas-Lilienthal House, San Francisco
July 29, 2018 5:30 PM

Standing Still and Moving

Joe Goode has been bringing his message of “re-inventing the self” to San Francisco audiences for some time, at least since 1979 when he came to SF to join the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company. In 2011 he opened the Joe Goode Annex where many artists like himself present new, unusual and compelling work. “Standing Still” honors the house on Franklin Street, home to an immigrant, pioneering family and his own work.

It is a wonderful adventure to more through the various spaces of the old house, watching unusual events in each place, wearing a mask (each visitor gets one), playing with pots and spoons in the kitchen watching dancers in hallways, on outdoor stairs and occupying the environment with song, story and interludes featuring Joe himself.

I enjoyed it all, particularly the four dancers in the main hall who came in and out of the rooms behind, moving in both playful and serious manners, celebrating their being. In fact, the entire event, dance and song, challenged audiences to invent, restore and celebrate their abilities. Joe has given that challenge to his company and they fulfill it.

The performers are fifteen in number, many are members of JGPG company. See the list at joegode.org

Still Standing features original music by musician/composer Ben Juodvalkis, in addition to Bay Area singer-songwriters and musicians, Tassiana Willis, Lila Blue and Shawna Virago. There are performances at the Haas-Lilienthal House until August 5. It is a very special event especially for these trying times. Go.

Joanna G. Harris

ODC Summer Sampler

ODC dance presents Summer Sampler
July 27, 2018 ODC Theater SF

Dancing 10 Choreography ?

The dancers of the ODC company are brilliant. They execute the various movements with great skill, rhythmic accuracy and amazing contact with one another. They jump (sometimes caught upside down), they are carried, thrown, fall, roll, walk, leap and run and perform all the extensions and dance shapes required. The number of these events proliferate until sometimes, often one cannot see the dance from the dancing. It seems to be today’s style.

Dead Reckoning” (2015 ) by choreographer KT Nelson to an exiting score by Joan Jeanrenaud uses all the techniques described above, Nelson’s intention is to demonstrate “the powerful forces and formations of nature…” (program quote). The dancers surely demonstrate the forces with their quick energy and constant changes of shape, design and contact. “Lime green snow” falls (actually they were small pieces of yellow paper)..”we radically transform our world.” The intention is splendid, but difficult to contain since there is so much to absorb.

Triangulating Euclid” suffers from some of the same profusions. Inspired by an edition of Euclid’s “Elements of Geometry, ” the observer could anticipate some delight in spacial patterns so delineated. Yes, someone draws them with chalk on the stage, but the actual designs in space do not amplify them. Instead, we see a similar exhibition of activities seen before. There is a quiet interlude to Schubert music danced, I believe, by Jeremy Smith (who is leaving the company). It was a beautiful respite from the hyperactivity. This reviewer finds she, and others, require more focus, more “through-line” to choreography if intentions are to be truly realized. Breda Way, KT Nelson and Kate We are collaborated on “Triangulating Euclid.”

The dancers are Jeremy Smith, Natasha Adorelee Johnson, Brandon Freeman, Jeremy Bannon-Neches, Tegan Schwab, Daniel Santos, Rachel Furst, Leni Yamanaka, James Gilmer, Mia J. Chong. Bravo all.

Joanna G. Harris

“King of Cuba”- Central Works

Central Works
Julia Morgan City Club
Berkeley, CA July 21, 2018

A serious comedy

Cristina Garcia’s novel “King of Cuba” deals with “the intransigencies on both sides of the political divide”(Garcia’s note)…the dictator of Cuba and his exiled enemies. Goya Herrera, a Miami octogenarian, is determined to return to the island and kill El Commandante. Both elderly gentlemen are ‘off’, full of fantasies and cruel memories.

Garcia says she “wrestles in a darkly comic satirical fashion” with both side. But, for this reviewer what emerges the hour-and a half performances is a set of gags. The show, despite its series subject, is played for comedy.

Except for Steve Ortiz (Goyo) and Maria Gomez (El Commandate), the rest of the cast plays multiple roles in multiple quick scene changes…so many, so fast, that it is sometimes hard to follow the plot. The room is small and sound bounces off and around so that voices are drowned out and the jokes don’t come across, although the audience laughed and laughed. Some jokes are funny; others are just ironic and bizarre.

For example, Ben Ortega, as a street hustler (among several other roles) plays up to various characters to suggest that Cuba is a place where tourist come for ‘action’ of all sorts. Some of these scenes are charming; others are just not funny. Others in the cast are Elaine Garrity, Leticia Durate and Marco Aponte. They are to be congratulated on their ability to change character and costumes in swift succession.

Sometimes it’s a bit confusing to the audience as to who they are next. Carlos Caro accompanied the dramatic moments with great percussion sound. As the show settles down in its future weeks, let’s hope that all this lively action and the lines become clear and truly dramatic as it is intended to be.

Garcia’s script was directed by Gary Graves.

Joanna G. Harris

SF Ethnic Dance Festival

SF Opera House: July 14, 2018
“Uniting US through Dance”

The SF Ethnic Dance Festival is celebrating its 40th year using the title above and staging an elaborate series of performances at the Opera House and at SF City Hall, July 6-22, 2018. This reviewer attended the opening event at the Opera House.

It was an elegant evening, featuring eleven groups from diverse ethnicities. Each is wonderful in its special way; music, costuming, setting, participation. But for this reviewer, who has seen at least half of the festivals, a certain simplicity, close to origins, sometimes seeing children and adults together…used to be the delight of the festival. Now, the Opera House seems to demand large groups, elegant costumes and a lack of variety in presentation, several presentations featuring large groups of women choruses.

The Nunamta Yup’ik Eskimo Singer and Dancers opened the show, their set displaying important images, their song and simple dance very immediate and effective. That was also true for Leung’s White Crane Lion & Dragon Dance wherein we received the surprise and effective magic of San Francisco’s familiar celebration. Unusual too, although very contemporary, was the soloist, Ye Feng, whose work “carries Chinese Soul traditions,” and uses Chinese philosophy as well as American Modern Dance and tai chi. After watching several large groups, it is always a pleasure to see a soloist.

The second half of the program presented four complex events, evoking story lines as well as dance presentation. From the Parangal Dance Company representing the Meranao People of Mindanao, Philippines, we witnessed “The Abduction of Princess Lawanenj, “ an epic dance-drama that celebrated love, loyalty, conquest and epic poetry. The event was the most complex of the evening, presenting action, song, story and elaborate costuming. The Bolivian group, “Bolivia Corazon de American” ran a close second in its gorgeous production of “Pachamama, “ honoring Mother Earth.

As in the Philippine event, men danced as warriors. Men dancing provide a different welcome energy and range of steps that provide a variety of alternative rhythms. Men as heroes were also featured in “Te jura O Te Rahra’a” a Tahitian legend in which humans are transformed into birds and beasts. This group’s mission is to perpetuate Polynesian culture. Their beautiful costumes, sets and music fulfilled that goal.

As always praise is due to World Arts West, its staff, donors and volunteers for their commitment to bringing us the Festival. Bringing audiences our local Folklorico, Kathak company, Flamenco, and Afro-Cuban dance is always an important reminder of the richness of the San Francisco Bay Area community. Congratulations on 40 years!

Joanna G. Harris

 

“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