"Full Moon Syndrome," "Me No You," "So You See,"
"Et," "Columbia Chasing"
Westwave Dance Festival
San Francisco, CA
November 8, 2010
by Rita Felciano
Copyright Rita Felciano, 2010
For its nineteenth season the San Francisco's Westwave Dance festival moved its performances from July weekends to a once-month Monday nights during the fall. Programming still emphasizes new work by local artists; the most recent concert offered five world-premieres. Presenting only freshly minted choreographies presupposes either a thorough knowledge of the artists you are choosing or something like blind faith and a willingness to take chances on a hunch. With one exception, producer Joan Lazarus' choices proved to be right on. This was a well-paced, well balanced evening of new dance.
Montreal-based Andrew Skeels, a dancer with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, created a short but rich solo (to Vivaldi) on recent transplant from Sweden, former Royal Swedish Ballet dancer Katja Bjorner. Bjorner, lithe and fluid, has those stretched out lines and ability to phrase that we appreciate in ballet. Clearly also with a lot of experience inhabiting contemporary repertoires, she looked as at ease in cambré as in folding her nose to her knees. Seeing her first as a silhouette, as if plastered against a wall, felt like a tease, making us wonder who that creature was. As the lights came up, the two-dimensional shadow revealed a multi-dimensional dancer as much at home on the floor as in the air. Skeels' spacious yet detailed choreography demanded a fluid use of the torso; Bjorn invested each of "et's" details with a calm sense of discovery and the certainty of the stage being her birthright.
Brittany Brown Ceres' sextet, the pulsating "Columbia Chasing" spilled onto the stage with a kinetic energy that looked as if inevitably it would run out of steam. Dancers hopped, lifted and piled up; they formed into couples only to rush into unisons. Chaos seemed a real possibility. But then the choreography blossomed into a lovely adagio. Later we got touches of a folkdance. Throughout Brown Ceres steered with a firm though gentle hand. A trio featured spatially separated women in very different moves yet pulling them together, they would have interlocked like pieces in a puzzle. Highlighting a duet for Yukie Fujimoto and lanky Roel Seeber only served to have them partner others until once again they flipped, rocked and cradled each other. At the end, the dancers raised their arms and glanced upwards. I wondered what they were looking for. "Columbia" proved to be an immensely likable premiere.
Lisa Townsend's "So you see," for four women, accompanied by a trio of musicians, was an excerpt of a full-length piece to be performed next fall. It had two strikes against it. Once more this was dance with text in which the performers have not been trained to properly project language from a stage. I would have loved, for instance, to hear the answers, if there were some, to the question, "have you been here for a long time?' and was "somebody asking for it?" Also the pointillist music didn't have enough if a shape of its own; too often responded to even mimicked specific moments in dance. Fortunately, none of these flaws are fatal; they can easily be corrected between now and next September. Choreographically, Townsends seems to delve into pedestrian gestures, most prominently a shaking-hands greeting/confrontation and movements that emanate from inside the body and spill outwardly across the stage.
Erika Tsimbrovsky's "Full Moon Syndrome" for five dancers, a live percussionist (PC Munoz) and an electronic sound score (Andrew Way), opened the evening on a sour note. The dancers wore what looked like newspaper tutus. They rolled in uncoordinated unisons on the floor, they screamed at each other and rocked back and forth on the floor, legs in the air. At one point, they essayed a mock ballet to the Dance of the Snowflakes music. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what this choreographer had in mind. And how did she make it onto this program?