A choreographer’s anniversary is always a tricky subject. It would be easier for everyone, including the choreographer, if the Mayor would just present him or her with a key to the city. The pressure to create something knew is always an intense one, least of all when it is expected to say something about 30 years of creative experimentation and accomplishment. An anniversary is a landmark to a memory, to previous work gone by–and decent into the unknown abyss of what’s next? Dance aficionados also suffer stress when showing up with high expectation, and eagerness to celebrate these esteemed artists while, occasionally, having to reconcile lack luster anniversary dances. Should they accept the dance at face value or applaud it for the work that’s come before? Maybe choreographers could just restage their “best of” dances as a weeklong celebration (paid for by the Mayor of course…) and create a new piece unrelated to the milestone. Otherwise, it’s like throwing a birthday party for yourself. How to be humble?
The much applauded, and much deserving, Joe Goode picked four excerpts from his favorite pieces to capsulize 30 creative years—not an easy feat. The pieces ranged from 1991-2011 and feature the solid dancing of longtime company members: Liz Burritt, Felipe Barrueto-Cabello, Marit Brook-Kothlow, Melecio Estrellla, Molly Katzman, Andrew Ward, Patricia West, and more recently, James Graham. He began with his signature of talking to the audience, making something scripted sound very informal, only tonight it was spiced with cameo’s by a waitress peddling pie and backup girls crooning to a sexy male would-be night club singer. The introduction set a comedic tone to the evening, which culminated with the première of “Nobody Lives Here Now,” aka, the anniversary present. This selection of dances all included Goode’s palate of spoken word, song, and colorful visual imagery, with the company all being quite accomplished in vocal delivery as much as they are dancing. “Grace” (2004) showed Marit Brook-Kothlow being impacted from all directions by Andrew Ward and Felipe Barrueto-Cabello as if she were a bumper car in a relationship ride. “The Rambler” (2011) with its saloon chairs and white cotton wardrobe comes off like a spaghetti Western as the theme song from The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly whistled over Patricia West forceful monologue. Dancing from chair to chair, West delivered a crisp text before Goode yodeled a cowboy tune and then striped seductively out of wooly shotgun chaps.
The strongest dancing came in; “Wonderboy” (2009) among the Bunraku-style puppet that Basil Twist designed and Goode gave voice to through technical sound distortion. “Remembering the pool at the Best Western” (1991) featured an original cast member, Liz Burritt as a ghostly fairy godmother. Together Goode and Burritt hashed out grief and loss with ghostly nymph-like dancers tweeted about upstage. It’s challenging to say how anyone seeing these pieces out of context would respond, as it’s challenging to not overlay content for those who have seen these pieces in their entirety. How would this program be received outside of San Francisco, or is this homage only intended for fans, friends, and family? And, then, (drum roll please…) it came, in the second half of the program, “Nobody Lives Here Now.” This baby boomers’ lament takes on the loss of vitality, the grief of not recognizing one’s ageing face as it morphs into the “dropping face of my father” and the overall disappearance or retirement from one’s own identity. All poignant and relevant topics presented as a series of vaudevillian vignettes full up with Ward and Goode wearing turbans ala Johnny Carson pretending to be a great magicians. Clowns abound as Burritt takes the confusion of identity into nonbinary gender idenity while wearing a digital reader board as a headpiece. And it is this broad stroking of metaphors and overkill that causes “Nobody Lives Here Now” to feel just like that…like no body is home even thought the digital lights are on.
David E. Moreno