Risa Jaroslow & Dancers with Lisa Mezzacappa

“Touch Bass”

Written by:
Joanna G. Harris
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Dancers often collaborate with musicians as composers, accompanists and performers. We have seen many dances accompanied by pianists onstage, and sometimes small chamber groups. But Jaroslow/Mezzacappa’s “Touch Bass” brings three bass instruments together with three dancers. All six, musicians as well as dancers participate in the delightful playful activity.

Jaroslow’s mother was a bassist and she grew up hearing and seeing the instrument. Mezzacappa is a San Francisco composer, bassist, bandleader and producer. The two had immediate inspiration to “ see if we could make them equal presences on stage.” They have succeeded.

The bassists are Mezzacappa, Eric Perney and Matt Small. The dancers are
Brendan Barthel, Tara McArthur and Lauren Simpson. (Scott Marlowe helped in the development of the project as a dancer, but could not perform.) All six play together in many ways. The dancers handle the instruments as if they were partners. The musicians respond to the contact of the dancers. At one point the dancers accept the instruments atop their bodies as the musicians ‘pull strings’ to make some extraordinary sound. The process is always very friendly.

McArthur and Simpson take the stage as primary performers. They make contact with each other and the instruments, on the floor with many balances, falls, rolls and jumps. The technique used seems very easy throughout. Barthel joins them occasionally for a trio and adds a dimension of length and strength. During one interval, the three change partners often.
This and the many ways they relate to the players, makes for great delight.

Mezzacappa is credited as the composer as well as the main musician.
She has accomplished an enchanting challenge for all the artists concerned.
The lighting design for the wide open ODC stage was by Jack Beuttler. Costumes (dancers outfits adapted to look like formal musicians) were by Mary Domenico. All are to be congratulated on their special accomplishments.

Joanna G. Harris

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