An Improvisation: Belinda McGuire

Walking Distance Dance Festival
May 19, 2018 ODC Theater SF
An Improvisation” Rashaun Mitchell, Silas Riener
Belinda McGuire: Solo Works

ODC is always ‘on the edge’ as a producer of new and unusual works. For the Walking Distance Dance Festival, the theater has brought events, workshops, a Dance Party and a selection of dramatic artists. This was evident in the May 19 evening featuring “An Improvisation” and Solo Works by Belinda McGuire.

Mitchell and Riener are well known to local and national audiences as former members of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. With them on the koto was Shoko Hikage, on the saxophone Philip Greenlief and reading her text, the author Claudia La Rocco. These disparate elements demand different levels of attention, of sight and sound, of interpretation and translation. Mitchell and Riener, two brilliant dance movers, are capable of taking one’s full attention, since their skills, subtle and extended, were the strongest elements of “An Improvisation.” They both move through the space, in place, sometimes disappear and reappear creating surprise. This reviewer wished for more duet interaction.

Hikage’s koto playing was most consistent. She produced beautiful, subtle sound that provided an underlying gentle energy. Greenlief’s participation was more occasional. His was a charming, but incidental contribution. For this reviewer, the spoken words by La Rocco were more disturbing than accompanying. Her tone was uniform throughout, her language repetitive, her images uninteresting. When she did interact with the dancers, there were moments of humor. Sometimes too many scores are one too many.

Belinda McGuire is a powerful dancer whose energy bursts across the stage space and hits the audience with her explosive gestures and phrases. She is technically at top form and is fascinating to watch. What she is doing with her solo choreographic works, however is not clear. First of all, there is too much. The works go on and on, and one is drowned in her vocabulary. It therefore becomes difficult for the viewer to collect and bring it to focus. She credits two others, Emio Greco and Pieter C. Scholten for choreography in “The Eight Propositions,” (what were they?) and Sharon B Moore for the choreography for “Anthem for the Living.” This latter work, involving the use of ropes (and suggested suicide), is a dramatic study. Ms McGuire’s costumes, made of ‘see-through’ material does help to demand the audiences’ attention to her every move. Katherine Mallinson is credited with costume design.

Joanna G. Harris