Eva Yerbabuena

Eva Yerbabuena Company
Cal Performances: Zellerbach Hall UC Berkeley
March7, 2018 8 PM


Eva Yerbabuena is a one woman powerhouse dancer. She brings to Flamenco a dramatic skill not usual in the folk tradition of Flamenco, at least not usually seen in Bay Area Flamenco. She divides the program into seven parts, all of them solos, except for one section (I guess Nana and Coffee) where she interacts with the singers. That section, for me, was the most pleasant. Yerbabuena must be admired for her dramatic ability, but for me, it grew melodramatic, overly repetitious and emotionally wearing.

Except for two sections when she dons shawls and flings them about, her costuming is always black. Her singers, guitarist, percussionist and violinist are dressed in black also. The stage is lit with various diagonal down spots that barely illuminate the spaces.

For one number she uses a lopsided chair, which could be a torture rack. For another, she spreads herself on a table which ultimately falls apart. It is all very effective but tends to be performed at the same level of muscular intensity and with repetitious gestures.

Yerbabuena begins in the dark walking on crossed diagonal lines, each walk quickly blacked out. Her arm gestures are huge, although she is a small woman, she projects enormous range. Her movements tend to be symmetrical: first one side, then its echo on the other. On the chair, she sits, lies and spreads herself out, legs wide apart. Each section ends, usually, with arms outstretched to the heights. Such gestures call for wide applause.

To this reviewer, she is best when she hauls up her skirts and displays the wonderful foot work so famous to Flamenco. We then accept and enjoy her dance mastery.

The vocals for this program were provided by José Valencia, Enrique Exstremeno and Alfredo Tejada. They are all brilliant is tone and rhythm, although the electronic amplification tends to produce the same pitches. Paco Jarana on the guitar, Antonia Coronel, percussion and Vladimir Dmitrienco, violin, provided fine musical accompaniment.

It was an usual and important dance experience to see this performer who credits both Pina Bausch and Carolyn Carlson for help in the development of her work. It is extraordinary work at the Martha Graham level of emotional projection. A more varied and less dramatic intensity within the program would make it a more enjoyable event.

Joanna G. Harris

photo: Eva Yerbabuena
Courtesy of Cal Performances

Black Choreographers Festival: “Here and Now”

Black Choreographers Festival
Laney College, Oakland
March 3, 2018

“Here and Now”

Kendra Baarnes and Laura E. Ellis, directors of the program, welcomed us to the 14th Annual season of the BCF “Here and Now.” Besides the three weekend performances, two in San Francisco and one in Oakland, the Festival is presenting Panel Discussions and Master Classes. It is particularly relevant in these times of “artistic visibility and activism through arts and culture.” The March 3 program certainly demonstrated  commitment to current events.

There were nine works on the program. Some were devoted to today’s commitments to the women’s movement, the homelessness problem, dependency issues and always, the human condition. In all the dances, there was real artistry, exuberant dancing, fine fluid technique and excellent group interaction. Enthusiasm was visible; some went on too long.

District 6: 3692 Diamond Ave” (2017), choreographed by Ashley Gayle and Noah James was outstanding. A study of homelessness, the piece was dedicated to all “mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunties, cousins and daughters who forget to take deep breaths.” The eight performers portrayed various persons who, often in despair, find and leave each other in the cold of their condition. They were all very effective.

Another gripping work was Natalya Shoaf’s premiere of “Complicated.” Five performers worked effectively with one another to give us a presentation of brutality to women. Without actually coming to blows in any way, they were able to demonstrate the cruelty inflicted and the emotional consequences of such situations. Brava to all!

Another such work was “experts from existence” (a work in progress) by Dazaun Soleyn. We are told that “existence is a visceral exploration of the dancers, artist, experience with code switching.” Three dancers made this a viable number.

There were pleasant, joyful hip-hop numbers to cool the tensions. “Skywod” was one (choreographed by Phylicia Stroud and Tzylon Sims) and Frankie Lee Peterson III gave us a solo finale that was wild and lively.

Congratulations to all the choreographers, dancers, designers and leaders who make the Black Choreographers Festival such a success. We are always moved and delighted by their efforts.

Joanna G. Harris

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


Company Wang Ramirez “Borderline”
Cal Performances Zellerbach Hall
Sunday February 25, 2018


Borderline” is an international enterprise with support from institutes and theaters in France and Germany. Honji Wang, dancer, choreographer and artistic director, was born and raised in Germany by Korean parents. Her training includes hip-hop dance, martial arts and ballet. Her partner, Sebastien Ramirez, dancer, choreographer and artistic director, comes from the south of France and “specializes in the use of aerial work as well as the development and use of choreographic rigging”. These two, accompanied by performers Louis Becker, Johanna Faye, Said Lehlouh and assisted by Alister Mazzotti gave the “Radical” audience a startling new look at a new dimension of multi-disciplinary dance.

The rigging is unique. A large cage like structure first attracts and then repels two dancers who swing, balance, elude and mount the structure. The action becomes an attract-repulse statement; the cage, manned by their rigger, is alive to their responses.

The company’s style is based in hip-hop, but several forms of dance and flying actives are employed. The five dancers and an aerial rigger, who performs with them, keeps us aware of his active role. He can give the dancers freedom from gravity; he keeps them safe. But he also restrains and restricts them. In the beginning, two women in harnesses, led to separate lines, struggle and surge toward an open steel construction. Every image of safety or freedom is complemented with one of danger or confinement.

The rigging allows not only flight but dramatic effects at stage level. This reaches a breathtaking finale with Wang and Ramirez in a tender duet, with Wang sometimes  pulled rapidly back across the stage, in a wonderful white dress. She whirls in large and small arcs and, held in one hand by Ramirez, seems to float alongside him.

Company Ramirez offers a unique introduction to their skills. They are all fine dancers. “Borderline,” a performance combining multiple skills, gave Berkeley audiences a taste of a new international, inter-discipline experience.The rigging allows not only flight but dramatic effects at stage level. This reaches a breathtaking finale with

Joanna G. Harris

Robert Moses’ Kin 2018

Robert Moses’ Kin’s 23rd Season
“Bootstrap Tales”
February 23-25, 2018 Yerba Buena Center, SF

The Bootstrap Program
“..is RMK’s initiative to engage foster youth in the performing arts.”

Although only the second half of this “Bootstrap Tales” program is inspired by the ideas, thoughts, and music of the youth involved, it gave direction to the program as a whole. The Company danced “Bootstrap Tales” in five parts to a score identified by names familiar to the young audience on various social media, (e.g. “Violin Solo by Ella Inglebert, Facebook.)

There were surprising selections, e.g. “Silent Night” (by Jamal Corey) the Xmas song. A long slow group movement which stayed on the floor throughout, provided the base theme. An old torch song “Georgia,” was also portrayed, the booking information for the singer (Mr. Rob Bass) was provided. The dance imagery primarily displayed the need for contact, intimacy and the expansive movement that this company can execute so well.

The first part of the program included “Speaking Ill of the Dead” (2006), “Trapdoors/Trickbags”, “Painted Corners “(Excerpt) 2017), and “Lucifer’s Prance” (Revival) (2000). “Trapdoors,” was a solo for the beautiful Crystaldawn Bell. She stretched, exuded a romantic range of movement.

Speaking Ill…” for four men and four women all dressed in black, was a tightly knit adventure in close entanglement. “Lucifer’s Prance,” was a frenetic response to Philip Glass’ music displaying big leaps, jumps, expansive movement of all kinds and marvelous use of space.

The company members are Norma Fong (who deserves special recognition for her role in “Bootstrap Tales,” Crystaldawn Bell, Vincent Chavez, Bryon Roman, Clarissa Das, Keryn Breterman-Loader, Alivia “Liv” Schaffer, Khala Brannigan, Cora Cliburn, Lwnanda Dutyulwa and Lindokuhle “Odwa” Makanda. The last two gentlemen are listed as “guest artists” from South Africa. They added their special skills and expansive energy to the program.

Joanna G. Harris

Meredith Webster and Keelan Whitmore of Alonzo King Lines Ballet perform “Dust and light” Saturday evening.
///ADDITIONAL INFO: laguna.0909.dak 09/09/12 – Photo by Drew A. Kelley, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

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