The year 2017 has been a record one for San Franciscan choreographers and dancers celebrating landmark anniversaries. While some of these anniversary performances can be over- indulgent, others remain true to the creative talent driving their sustained careers. However, few of these luminaries can claim what dance veterans Scott Wells and Kathleen Hermesdorf have on the occasion of their “25th Anniversary (and…eviction.)” 25 years ago these two starry-eyed wannabes slid into town and right into Danceground Keriac performing arts center where they began producing their unique signature acro-style dance for the San Francisco dance scene. As fate would have it, they were evicted from DGK 25 years to the month after moving in, which only fueled their pervasively instinctual tongue-and-cheek sensibility. “Was that good for you?” is that drag on a cigarette after 25 years of lovemaking, of dancing professionally and at one time, personally. That ember, their artistic passion, still burns brightly as they measure these years gone by–the space between dances, the time it takes from love to arrive and the time it takes for it to go, the distance between youth and middle age, the distance between sunrise and sunset–with industrial measuring tapes.
There’s nothing quite like that brittle metallic sound that measuring tapes make as they recoil, or that cracking pop they produce bending, nothing quite as obnoxious and familiar. “Was that good for you?” uses that harsh noise in the dark of an unlit stage to start the performance with Wells and Hermesdorf violently manipulating tape measures as the light comes up. Tape measures are used to line the stage, divide it, to create both order and chaos, to frame movement and to shatter it. Soon Wells and Hermesdorf’s younger doppelgangers, Sebastian Grubb and Virginia Broyles take the lead or share the stage with their paternal dance-parents who offer advice like, “Protect your psoas,” as all acrobatically fly and tumble through the space. The choreography is confident, defiant, risky, and the cocky humor seriously and matter-of-factly funny. Only towards its end does WTGFY bog down a bit as tapes are used like rays of light, or like forensic markings at the scene of a crime, emanating out dancers laying on the floor.
“Ballistic2” or, the ‘Attack of the Physio Balls’, is equally humorous and reliant on props, while maintaining a hyper flow of acrobatics, dance and juggling. The balls, thrown on stage from a mysterious source off stage, slowly and methodically bounce into place at first before becoming a chaotic deluge. Their cheery colors brighten up a dimly lit stage like a bubble gum machine, as numerous dancers shoot hoops, attack each other with them, or run and slide across their round surfaces landing in handstands or backbends. Smaller balls replace larger ones, with juggling clubs eventually making their way into this topsy-turvy circus. This all takes place as Hungarian gypsy music adds an old-world vibe to this frenzy. The fact that performers don’t end up with concussions and black eyes says much about the choreography, that Wells actually is at the helm and that his dancers are fearless. The most poetic of this anarchy, a respite in this barrage, happens when one overhead light narrows the stage into its small circumference. Dancers move out of the shadows into its light and are quickly swept away by another dancer, or leaped upon by another as they swiftly disappear back into the shadows.
The “On the Occasion of our 25th Anniversary (and eviction)” performance is joyous and hopeful, showing us how to have fun, how to stay light-hearted and curious during this time of global chaos and uncertainty.
David E. Moreno