Krissy Keefer, the director of Dance Brigade has staged “The Great Liberation…” at least twice since 1999. This time, with a cast of young, exuberant and very skilled dancers, it is celebrated in an hours (or so) with achievement and delight.
“The Tibetan Book of the Dead” has provided spiritual direction and artistic inspiration for centuries. Keefer pays homage to Lama Tsultrim Allione for her work in the Dharma and to the Mandala Retreat Center.
From this devotion comes “The Great Liberation” in nine parts, leading us from “Everyday Life” to “Searching for a Womb Door” (rebirth) with an interlude, seemingly a take off on TV shows, “Dharama Lesson, “Did you kill the pig and why?” Keefer gives us much to learn, narration to attend to and taiko drums to hear .
For this reviewer, the ‘through line’ artist was Leesha Zieber, a student at SF State, who starts in the role of the Lama and continued throughout the event, taking various roles and ultimately joining the ensemble. She has a thoughtful presence and her relationship to other dancer/actors was clear and focused. Edisnel Gonzalez Rodriguez and Grette Rodrigues also played leading roles as did Fredeika Keefer. All the men dancers demanded special attention with their technical skill and the women matched them in energy and vitality.
Krissy herself is a kick, changing costumes, each more outlandish than the next and narrating throughout. Her “Dharma Lesson, “ Did you kill the pig and why?” questions morality and behavior. Presented as a TV act, it serves to put the great Book into perspective for ordinary audiences and give the ritual humorous relief. She is a great solo performer, clearly the leader of the group and the committed teacher.
By the time the Dharma Lesson occurs, we have experienced the “Buddha Family in Peaceful and Wrathful Forms” as well as the “Titans Jealous Sex realm.” Other realms follow: “The Hungry Ghost Wheel of Karma,” “Animal Hell Realm” and “Searching for a Womb Door.”
All these section are illustrated with gorgeous choreography and vivacious
dance skills. Jumps, falls, rolls, lifts and contact groupings abound. The finale brings everyone on stage in a series of twisted jumps and falls. There is almost too much to see and absorb. The audience rose with appreciation and admiration.
Notable among those to be credited are Sarah Shelton Mann who contributed choreographic staging; video design Mathew De Gumbia; Technical Director & lighting, Harry Rubeck; Music, Flor Van Herreweghe; Taiko Composer, Bruce Ghent; Songs and Voice Over, Elaine Buckholtz; Opening Film, ellen Bruno; Audio Technician, Aaron Gold; Video Technicial Jaco Strydom and Theater Director Stella Adelman. Of course Krissy Keefer, director/writer/narrator, performer deserves great kudos.
Joanna G. Harris