Risa Jaroslaw & Dancers – “Touch Bass”


Risa Jaroslow & Dancers with Lisa Mezzacappa

ODC Theater San Francisco

April 27-30, 2017

Down to Basses

Dancers often collaborate with musicians as composers, accompanists and performers. We have seen many dances accompanied by pianists onstage, and sometimes small chamber groups. But Jaroslow/Mezzacappa’s “Touch Bass” brings three bass instruments together with three dancers. All six, musicians as well as dancers participate in the delightful playful activity.

Jaroslow’s mother was a bassist and she grew up hearing and seeing the instrument. Mezzacappa is a San Francisco composer, bassist, bandleader and producer. The two had immediate inspiration to “see if we could make them equal presences on stage.” They have succeeded.

The bassists are Mezzacappa, Eric Perney and Matt Small. The dancers are Brendan Barthel, Tara McArthur and Lauren Simpson. (Scott Marlowe helped in the development of the project as a dancer, but could not perform.) All six play together in many ways. The dancers handle the instruments as if they were partners. The musicians respond to the contact of the dancers. At one point the dancers accept the instruments atop their bodies as the musicians ‘pull strings’ to make some extraordinary sound. The process is always very friendly.

McArthur and Simpson take the stage as primary performers. They make contact with each other and the instruments, on the floor with many balances, falls, rolls and jumps. The technique used seems very easy throughout. Barthel joins them occasionally for a trio and adds a dimension of length and strength. During one interval, the three change partners often. This and the many ways they relate to the players, makes for great delight.

Mezzacappa is credited as the composer as well as the main musician. She has accomplished an enchanting challenge for all the artists concerned.

The lighting design for the wide open ODC stage was by Jack Beuttler. Costumes (dancers outfits adapted to look like formal musicians) were by Mary Domenico. All are to be congratulated on their special accomplishments.


Full ensemble in Risa Jaroslow’s “Touch BassMacintosh HD:Users:joanna:Desktop:Full ensemble in Risa Jaroslow and Dancers' Touch Bass. Photo by Margo Moritz.jpg


Joanna G Harris, PhD
2714 woolsey st berkeley, ca 94705
510. 205-6065

Paul Taylor Dance Company


  • SF Performances Yerba Buena Center for the Arts,
  • April 26-30, 2017

Saving Graces

Congratulations to the dancers of the current Paul Taylor Company. Their skill, ensemble and spirit make this current appearance of the group a pleasure to encounter. Although two works on the program (Airs, 1978) and (Syzygy, 1987) have been seen often in past performances, this present group brings new vitality to the old works.

To sections of G.F. Handel’s Concerto Grossi Opus.3, the three men and four women tackle the familiar vocabulary Taylor has used in the last sixty years of dance making … the tilted torso, the small leaps and runs, soft falls, fast footwork and charming couple duets. Although the music is taped and sometimes too fast for some sections, “Airs” is a lovely series of lyrical episodes. Yet, the bare chested men and the nude-looking tops of the women may not be quite appropriate for the baroque nature of the music. Laura Halzack is outstanding as the soloist in “Airs.”

Syzygy is defined as “the nearly straight line configuration of three or more celestial bodies in a gravitational system.” The dance vocabulary here feels as if it comes from ‘cool’ ‘80s’ dance halls. It is full of ‘hang-loose’ shoulders, fighting, flailing arms, bent knees and a general wildness of gesture and relationships. The piece seems to revolve around Madelyn Ho, a small but powerful dancer who may hold the ‘gravitational system” in course. Today’s audience would call it a ‘fun’ piece.

Nothing is fun about the world premiere “The Open Door.” Taylor has sometimes succeeded with dramatic works, but this is a dud. Michael Novak is the host in some sort of party whose guests include a fat lady, a gay man, a child, an old man and woman, an athlete, a soldier, a child and undistinguished others. Each has his/her dancing turn, with or without the host. No drama ensues. There is unpleasant satire with the fat lady and the men fighting.

Although set to Elgar’s “Enigma Variations,” “The Open Door” has no charm, limited dancing and less impact. It should be stored away.

The fine company members of The Paul Taylor Dance Company are:

Michael Trusnovec, Robert Kleinendorst, James Samson, Michelle Fleet, Parisa Khobdeh, Sean Mahoney, Eran Bugge, Francisco Graciano, Laura Halzack, Jamie Rae Walker, Michael Apuzzo, Michael Novak, Heather McGinley, George Smallwood, Christina Lynch Markham, Madelyn Ho, and Kristin Draucker. Applause for them all.

Taylor employs an accomplished artist whose work shines through, no matter what the work. Lighting is by the great Jennifer Tipton. Costumes are for “Syzygy” by Santo Loquasto and for this performance “Airs” costumes were by Gene Moore, “The Open Door” by William Ivey Long.

A mix of old and new works continues through the week. The best will be offered on Saturday and Sunday; “Esplanade” (!975) to music by Bach.


Photo: Paul B. Goode

Eran Bugge (left), Robert Kleinendorst and Laura Halzack perform “Airs.”


Joanna G Harris, PhD
2714 woolsey st berkeley, ca 94705
510. 205-6065

San Francisco Ballet – Program 7


April 14, 2017 San Francisco Opera House

Made for SF Ballet

Program 7, this year’s lively innovative choreographic offering, includes works by Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson, an older commission (2008) by now famous Christopher Wheeldon, and a new work by a current member of the corps de ballet, Miles Thatcher. All three take their inspiration from the musical score, yet they offer varied choreographic points of view.

Thatcher’s work is most current in his use of thematic material. He evokes community themes, bringing dancers together in confronting gestures yet acknowledging that confrontation brings enmity as well as comfort. These themes lead to more extended movements of the arms and torso beyond the conventional ballet vocabulary. Sometimes the dancers hug. It recalls, to this reviewer, lost moments of the days of “be-ins” wherein groups sought affection from one another. Certainly it is current again.

Yet some of the confrontation is unrealized. In Julia Rowe and Jaime Garcia Castilla’s opening duet there is what appears to be arm wrestling and rejection. That action quickly disappears as Thatcher, as so many of today’s choreographers do, resolves the duet into spectacular lifts in which the women are thrown, held up high, moved to the ground and are generally ‘used.’ The piece continues with such top energy throughout, although the hugs and group collapses to the ground modify the energy.

The score by Michael Hyman is rhythmically monotonous ins some movements and quietly dull at other times. It is movie music, not always pleasant to the ear, but supplies Thatcher’s base for exploration. The lighting design, by Jim French is vivid and sometimes hard on the eyes. But all in all Thatcher has brought a vividness to SF Ballet which is contemporary and lively. And then, he danced in the next piece on the program! But, Why the title? Where is the ‘Ghost in the Machine?”

Wheeldon’s “Within the Golden Hour” is, by contrast, very sophisticated. Ezio Bosso and Antonia Vivaldi provide vibrant music for the various duets. Thatcher joins Sasha De Sola; Dores André dances with Carlo Di Lanno and Frances Chung with Daniel Deivson-Oliveira. They are joined by eight members of the corps and the whole proceeds with classic excitement. The SF Ballet members get better at every performance.

For the opening number Tomasson chose his own “Trio” to music by Tchaikovsky. Since ballerina Lorena Feijoo is leaving the company, she danced the first movement with Jaime Garcia Castilla with great brio and brilliance. She flirted with the audience and they cheered excitedly. Sarah Ban Patten, Tiit Helimets and Aaron Robison performed the exquisitely tender center ‘trio’ that gives the work its name and Maria Kochetkova and Angelo Greco exploded expertly in the third movement with the ensemble. This is the best Tomasson work he has made for the company.

SF Ballet completes the season with “Cinderella” through May 7. It has been a lively season complete with superb dancing from the company.


Thatcher’s “Ghost in the Machine” Program 7 SF Ballet

Photo: Erik Tomasson








Joanna G Harris, PhD
2714 woolsey st berkeley, ca 94705
510. 205-6065
www. BeyondIsadora. com

Paying for Trump’s Wall – A Modest Proposal

We all know that Trump’s Wall will be huuge. What is underappreciated is that it could easily pay for itself!

The wall will be high and mostly smooth (see below for the exception). My brother has observed that this is ideal for certain kinds of sports – handball (a love of our father’s) in particular, as well as squash and racketball. Locating playing courts along the wall with a small fee for use, perhaps with documented immigrants playing for free on certain days would bring in some income which would offset wall maintenance costs.

But, we could have larger money infustions from naming rights and from advertisements. Think of the pride you could have by naming a section for a year – The John Smith Memorial Section, or the Brotherhood of Groundhogs wall region! The advertising possibilities are endless – static painted ads for local merchants, multiple section ads for larger corporations, electronic LED signs for malls, and the occasional public service announcement or weather forecast. On big game days, seats could be arranged to watch the sports with reasonable admission fees.

Since this wall runs mostly east-west, building an overhang on the US side will provide us with some shade, while the overhang itself can support solar panels. The power generated here can be sold locally. This delightful shaded open-air space is ideal for restaurants, bars and bistros whose fees would add to the finances. Of course, a small number of sections can be set aside as complementary spaces for school children to sell lemonade.

America’s interest in fitness would be recognized by setting aside an occasional section for wall-climbing exercises, complete with the rubber padding at the bottom and precision protrustions of varying degrees of difficulty for practice.

This could turn out the be a real money-maker. We should start planning for a Canadian border version soon!

ODC/Dance Downtown 2017 – Women on the Move


ODC/Dance Downtown

March 23-April 2, 2017

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, SF

Walking the walk: Doing the Dance

Some famous choreographer (perhaps Doris Humphrey) said, “All dances are too long.” Some are; some are not. For this ODC program “Women on the Move,” the two works presented were too long. They were both interesting, involving group and solo work that was challenging to the dancers and the audience. But, there were too many ideas, too many breathtaking phrases, and even too many costume ideas for an opening night audience to absorb. Yet the works presented were both important. Perhaps they should not be on the same program, but each paired with alternative, shorter, simpler presentations.

Dorrence Dance – “The Blues Project”


Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

March 16-18, 2017

Tapping in and out of the Blues

Although Michelle Dorrance was ill and unable to perform during her company’s appearance at YBCA, the company was in great shape and gave the enthusiastic audience a lively show. The eight dancers and Toshi Reagon and his BIGLovely band showed spirit and skill, offering a wide variety of tap and soft shoe styles and great moments of solo performance.