"Grace and Delia Are Gone"
Fort Mason Center for the Arts and Culture
San Francisco, CA
Sept. 22, 201
by Rita Felciano
copyright © Rita Felciano, 2016
Aerial dance, or apparatus-based dance as Jo Kreiter calls it for her twenty-year old Flyaway Productions, has earned its place with the Bay Area dance theater scene. Unlike her more recent out-door works on the sides and roofs of city buildings, “Grace and Delia Are Gone”-- an hour long contemplation about violence against women -- was performed in the small scale surroundings of and outside the old Firehouse at the Fort Mason Center at the edge of the Bay. There was an intimacy and individualized expressiveness to "Grace" that sometimes is difficult to communicate in more large-scale works. Kreiter’s dancers may still evoke a frisson when they slide head down a wall or swing into void as far as a rope will take them. But there is more to her work. An outspoken feminist with social concerns that particularly impact women, Kreiter is a dance theater maker whose choreography gives us images of physically strong and fearless women whether their stories talk about poverty, discrimination or abuse. In the end you believe that they will survive.
Laura Elaine Ellis and Sonsherée Giles in "Grace and Delia Are Gone." Photo: Austin Forbord Rapt Productions
Kreiter structured "Grace" as three different episodes for different dancers; the fourth one brought them together. 'Two Sisters' took MaryStarr Hope and Karla Quintero to an outside wall opposite the Firehouse where they showed what could have been a courting duet in the way they approached each other from the roof and the ground. They danced back-to-back, somersaulted, flipped each other and hugged. The combination of physical strength within lyrical exchanges worked beautifully. From the top of the roof Carla Kihlstedt's lovely soprano accompanied this "journey" in an adaptation of the eponymous folk song.
Walking into side room in the Firehouse we looked up at 'Grace's Last Night' with Alayna Stroud in front of a make-up table pushed up against a ceiling corner. The set spookily recalled "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari." Stroud looked like nightclub performer ready to go to work. Tired, worn out and desperate, she went through the motions, combing her hair, spiraling into space, falling over the chair and curling the rope around herself. She ended up finally wrapped in a rope under the table. "Beautiful Woman," heard in the background, was both ironic and appropriate for this fine performance.
Kreiter again switched gears with the hauntingly dramatic "Drowning and the Death Wife" in which Giles repeatedly seemed to drop into an invisible space only to be yanked up again, flailing, swimming into space and running horizontally against the wall. She appeared irresistible to Ellis, a dark ghost-like figure ready to jump into the fracas through the window. But she didn't. Both women looked caught in an eternal, never ending pattern of futile attempts to escape.
The final section, 'Now' -- with "housewives" caught in domestic tasks with kitchen tools -- pots, a whisk and a rolling pin -- resisted them and yet were knocked over by them. A drum roll grew ever more ominous. On the side Yayoi Kambara and a little later Megan Lowe proved themselves spectacularly brave taking on a suspended stair case -- up and down, over and under, hanging, running, dropping. But the two parts didn't really add up to a cohesive whole the way the preceding sections had done.
The production was imaginative and immaculately realized with special credits need to go to Sean Riley (Set/Rigging), but also Carla Kindstedt and Matthias Bossi (Music), Matthew Antaky (Lighting) and Miranda Caroligne and Giles (Costumes).