“Deep Field,” “Coat of Arms,” “Don’t Worry Baby”
little seismic dance company
San Francisco, CA
May 26, 2016
by Rita Felciano
copyright © Rita Felciano 2016
With two premieres and a reprise from 2014, i.e. a solo, a duet and a quintet, company founder Katie Faulkner celebrated the tenth anniversary of her little seismic dance company. Though quite different in the way this trio resonated — each piece distinct in its subtle emotional impact — they arose from a creative impulse with an absolute commitment to form and a willingness to embrace a restricted vocabulary. Faulkner couldn’t have done much better. Nor could the recently opened Counterpulse, now located in the Tenderloin neighborhood, have found a better act to pack its handsome new theater to the rafters. Somehow, “little seismic" seems an appropriate description for Faulkner’s choreography. The works are intimate, yet sharply defined. You get to know these dancers, whether one is introspective, two are clowns or an ensemble committed to fluid geometry. One way or another, Faulkner keeps an audience involved, wondering whether this is really what she wanted us to see, and yet being absolutely sure that this is exactly what she had in mind. It’s a rare gift in a choreographer these days.
little seismic dance company. Photo © Yvonne M. Portra
In 2015 Faulkner, performed "Coat of Arms" with James Graham, a fluidly impulsive dancer. This year Chad Dawson, stolid with a deadpan solidity, partnered her in what was a shadowing/mirroring duet in which he, standing behind her, tried to keep up with, particularly, her arm gestures. Peeking around her head he looked hilarious -- deer in the headlight style. "Coat" became a witty competitive catch-as-can, at times to the rhythmic challenges of the Cuarteto Mayari, but also performed in silence. Her gestures were more dramatic than his, often with a little hand flip or a sudden shudder. I kept wondering whether, though clearly choreographed, the piece didn't contain moments of improvisation, just enough for the dancers to keep each other and us on our toes. When they faced each other in parallel moves, hands almost but not quite touching and exchanging stiff, but deep bows, it occurred to me that somewhere in the back of this "Coat of Arms" resided memories from an 18th century salon.
For the other premiere, "Don't Worry Baby", four of the women (Janet Collard, Daiane Lopes da Silva, Tara McArthur and Suzette Sagisi) seemed in part to have been chosen for their physical resemblance and their ability to conjure up mirror images. Peiling Kao, long hair swinging, exploded into their middle with the force of a hurricane. The way these dancers kept looking into the distance, as if something catastrophic was about to hit them, contradicted the assuring title. Yet the geometry -- two by two poses, limbs stretched at identical angles into a diamond, diagonals and vertical lines, a series of semi-circles -- suggested some kind of force that held chaos at bay. Yet the tension between something awful -- man made or natural -- and this almost mechanistic sense of order never let up. Towards the end, four of the women faced the back wall, finally they held hands but did not look at each other. "Don't" overflowed with internal contradictions that, oddly enough, gave this fascinating piece its cohesion.