Charles Slender-White “Death”

CounterPulse, San Francisco
September 27-October 13, 2018 8 PM

“From extremely delicate to the wildly unhinged’

…is how artistic director/choreographer Charles Slender-White describes his production of “Death.” Using a long series of carefully choreographed phrases, he and his company perform those phrases over and over, as soloists and as groups, repeating the lunges, twists, falls, fascinating technical steps and stillness.

Slender-White starts the evening collecting small lights that the audiences has previously received. He charges these and puts them in a large jar filled with water. As he does this, he recounts the death of his mother, which, one assumes, motivates this work. He cites that he regards the work as “collective mourning for performers and audience alike.” He carries off a large plastic, headless reconstruction of the human body.

Like the messenger in the Greek myth, Charon, an usher appeared in the upper area of the theater where the audience viewed the solo performances of the each company member. The usher, using her flashlight, guided the individual from the theater to a showplace studio below where the event continued. The usher made the journey 40 times. Her slow, careful pace and detailed organization was fascinating choreography.

The basic phrases, now repeated by the group, grew in dynamics, range and force. There were episodes where the dancers sat in chairs, then fell forcibly to the ground. At one point, Slender-White let out a deep throated scream. Finally, each company member carried in a plastic body form (as seen earlier), put a light inside it and placed in it a pile. After their exit, a curtain fell.

All of the company is to be congratulated on their skill, their concentration, their devotion to the detailed execution of each dance phrase and its timing. The music accompaniment (Radiohes, W.A. Mozart, Ida Corr, Ryoji Ikenda, Max Richter) seem not to be a factor in their timing: they moved in unison with a great intuitive group sense . The event seemed long. It was long, almost one and three quarter hours. But then, death, we can presume, is long.

The dancers are: Keanu Brady, Michaela Burns, Kegan Marling, Morganne Mazeika, Catherine Newman, LizAnne Roman Roberts, Isabel Rosenstock, Charles Slender-White and Amanda Whitehead.Lighting Design: Dari Andrew Packard & Del Medoff: Dramaturge: Seth Eisen: Set Design Catherine Newman and Charles Slender-White.

Death” is an adventure well worth the evening’s experience. It provokes contemplation and admiration. Bravo!


Joanna G. Harris

Smuin Ballet

 Smuin Contemporary Ballet
Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek
September 22, 2018 2pm

Retrospective and Recent

The Smuin Contemporary Ballet Company, under the leadership of Celia Fuschile, artistic director, has launched its 2018-2019 season with ballets old and new. Smuin’s works are represented with “Schubert Scherzo” (2007) and “The Eternal Idol” (1969), a tribute to the sculptor Rodin. The newest event for the company is “Blue Until June” (2000), choreography by Trey McIntyre to the music of Etta James. Other choreographers include Rex Wheeler, Ben Needham-Wood and Nicole Haskins.

Smuin’s “Schubert Scherzo” opened the afternoon with lively extended locomotor patterns celebrating the company’s dynamic skills. The five men and women (listed below) danced throughout the performance with exuberance and technical bravura.

The Eternal Idol” to Chopin is a romantic duet for Erica Flesh and Peter Kurtz. With Rodin’s “Kiss” as the featured image, the work continues through a series of slow embraces and intimate lifts. It is sensually pleasing but for this reviewer, a little dull.

Sinfonitetta” to Tschaikovsky’s music revisited pleasant ballet locomotion and vocabulary, dynamic and sometimes repetitious. Alysia Chang and Mengjun Chen were the outstanding duet as were Tess Lane and Matiia Pallozzi. “Echo,” inspired by the myth of Echo and Narcissus was dramatic and sometimes confusing as to the focus of roles. Valerie Harmon took the lead as Echo: Peter Kurta was the subjugated Narcissus.

The Smuin Company succeeds in bringing pop music to ballet. In “Merely Players” Nicole Haskings uses music by Vampire Weekend, Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver to develop a series of romps between and among the company. Again, Chang and Chen as well as Dean and Kretz were outstanding.

The big new work, “Blue Until June” by Trey McIntyre (whose recent work was seen last spring at the SF Ballet), is set to songs by Etta James. The nine songs all give the company the opportunity to dramatize their roles as friends and lovers with a lively sense of humor in each event. The audience was delighted with such familiar numbers as “If I Can’t Have You,” “One for My Baby,” and “At Last.” It is a pleasure to see ballet dancers move to more relaxed contemporary movement and project such fun.

Congratulations to Ian Buchanan, Maggie Carey, Alysia Chang, Mengjun Chen, Nicole Haskins, Robert Kretz, Tess Lane, Ben-Needham-Wood, Mattia Pallozzi and Lauren Pschirrer, dancers and director Celia Fuschile. Smuin was well honored.

Smuin Ballet plans a Xmas Ballet in November and a Dance Series 02 in May.

Joanna G. Harris

Photo follows

Cid Pearlman

“The All Joan Show”
Cid Pearlman Performance
September 21, 22, 2018
Joe Goode Performance Annex, SF

Music, Dance and Imagery

Cid Pearlman and her dancers have built a challenging evening of works in collaboration with the composer/cellist Joan Jeanrenaud and the poet/dramatist Denise Leto. Pearlman offered four compositions which were all reconstructions from past performances, albeit this time with new and other performers.

Strange Toys” (2004) is a duet, this time for Collette Kollewe and Lyndia McGauhey. Both women are elegant dancers and work together to create a comfortable collage of movement that includes much contact, balance, locomotion and falls. Jeanrenaud’s music carries them through with easy coordination.

The major work of the evening was “Your Body is Not a Shark” (2013). Noting that each of the collaborators is disabled, Pearlman’s note says: “Shark calls into question conventional notions of virtuosic embodiment in a world that discounts difference.” The seven dancers assume various groupings, supporting, extending and playing with skills unique to each. One of the group is clearly pregnant. She is well supported. “Your Body is Not a Shark” is a delightful exploration of physical shapes and skills.

Molly Katzman (left) Damara Vita Ganley, Rainbeau Pictures © 2012

Small Variations” (2006) is an exploration of physical contact among four dancers; Lisa Brenner, Julia Daniel, Collette Kollewe and Lyndia McGauhey. McGauhey, who had a solo variation, has a dynamic fluency that is most attractive. The dynamics of contact, support, balance and intimacy in this work demanded slow tempi and time for transitions that stretched the timing. Shorter sections might speed things up. Nevertheless it was a extensive experience in dance skills and relationships.

Besides the four listed above the other dancers are: Julia Daniel, David King, Cynthia Strauss, Katie Trigg. With them and her collaborators, Pearlman has reconstructed three fascinating studies.

Joanna G. Harris


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

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