Bridge Project: Ten Artists Respond to Locus

Hope Mohr Dance, San Francisco

Written by:
David e. Moreno
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“The Bridge Project: Ten Artists Respond to Locus” is an elaborate and somewhat heady vehicle for a multidisciplinary exchange of San Francisco Bay Area performing artists. It features ten world premieres that all utilize dance legend Trisha Brown’s iconic, “Locus” (1975) as their departure point, homage, inspiration, and overriding structure—a structure to mimic, transform, and rebel against. “The Bridge Project” is also a bit of a dance-history lesson, requiring audiences to learn something about Brown’s choreographic process and style. To make matters more complex, this project required each of the performers to be nominated by a curator or organization, such as: Hope Mohr Dance, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and performing arts luminaries Keith Hennessy, Dohee Lee, Pamela Z, Adam Fong, and, Erika Chong Schuch. Dancers also had to learn “Locus” as taught to them by Trisha Brown Dance Company’s Associate Art Director, Diane Madden. Fortunately, the fruits of this creative endeavor are intellectually engaging and intimately satisfying. In full, the project included sound compositions, vocals, poetry, and a full spectrum of dance and movement.

Starting the program, sitting in a tiny fairy-like-circle, center studio, was sound composer Cheryl Leonard, performing “Asterisms.” Leonard’s long golden hair perfectly matched the color of the dry sycamore leaves that hung from branches surrounding the circle, adding to this fairytale-esque quality. With her hands or violin string she manipulated rocks, soil, and branches, creating a hypnotic soundscape and a welcoming environment for the audience, who sat nearby on all four sides of the studio. The seating made it easy to feel seduced into Leonard’s personal space—an intimacy that would continue throughout the other performances.

Next, Hope Mohr danced a solo piece from the original “Locus,” titled “Locus Solo,” a piece that lays out Brown’s signature minimalistic style and the spatial restrictions. Mohr danced within the confines of a tiny 4×4 cube of light projected from above. Her white cotton trousers and longsleeved knit top seemed right out of the 70s, as did her stoic expression and robotic—but eloquent—gestures and angular lines. Contrasting “Locus Solo” was Gregory Dawson’s “15,” which added a balletic layer to the program with his six sinewy dancers moving in and out of a grid of cube light projections. The dancers in solos and duets moved from shadows into the light grid sometimes to percussive music and other times in silence. Dawson’s years with Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet are obvious in his use of urban styled ballet, handsome customs, and long lanky dancers. Luckily, unlike Lines, Dawson’s dancers moved freely, unrestricted by the complex collaborations that King often imposes on his dancers. Isaiah Bindel and Ilaria Guerra were particularly spellbinding, displaying reptilian power, fluidity, and scale. Sitting so close to them made their grandeur and lyricism even more exciting.

“Never mind the notes you missed, you have 1,000 in front of you,” by Amy Foote, with Foote, Lora Libby, and Matthew Holmes-Linder performing, was a vocal piece using sheet music to form another kind of cube on the floor, with Holmes-Linder on electric guitar. “Color grid with talking (after Locus)” by Affinity project, with Bea Basso, Atossa Babaoff, and Nora el Samahy, continued this theme of working within a fixed space though more arbitrary in structure.

Completing the first act was the provocative “quarter” by that force of nature, Larry Arrington, who entered carrying a medium-sized rock that she—yes, she–proceeded to stand on. Dressed in street shoes, men’s trousers, and a white men’s tank top, Larry began lifting her arms skyward in a repetitive movement to a choral anthem. As she reiterated her movements various props were delivered to the set: a fish tank full of water, a potted plant, one-dimensional horses made from plastic and tinfoil. Before “quarter” was over she poured water from the fish tank onto the plastic horses via a water bottle (rebelliously disturbing the confines of structure and mechanical movement) while from the catwalk above water rained down onto the potted plant. Arrington’s fearless reoccurring patterns fused with her take-no-prisoners attitude engaged viewers as she approached them with direct eye contact throughout her work.

“Locus Poem” by Frances Richards started the second act, which concluded with “Tanlish,” by Gerald Casel, who danced vibrantly with Suzette Sagisi. In between these two, Peling Kao danced “per(mute)ing,” beginning the piece with the same choreography as in “Locus solo.” Only Kao immediately dismantled that work into something soulful, breaking down sharp lines and gestures into fluid presence. She danced without the 4×4 confinement suggesting something much bigger, freer, and authentically her own. Kao’s dancing is always a pleasure to behold, always deeply genuine. Sadly this was her farewell dance to the Bay Area.

The second to last work was the dramatic “A view from outside the cube,” by choreographer Xandra Ibarra. It incorporated three floor fans outlined with blue glow-lights and covered with plastic tarps. The tarps undulated towards different sides of the stage, while the electric hum of the fans produced the score for this techno-primal dance. With their long hair covering their faces Ibarra and Jenny Stulberg transformed themselves, through movement and sound, into amoeba-like-creatures. At one point crawling under the rippling, translucent, plastic tarps like leeches under skin and chanted into the blowing fans. Both “quarter” and “A view from outside the cube” were impressive for their originality.

“The Bridge Project: Ten Artists Respond to Locus” was a solid program of smart variations and inspirations showcasing some of the Bay Area’s most inventive artists and performers.

David E. Moreno

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