EmSpace Dance +Detour Dance
Photo: Kegan Marling
© Kegan Marling

EmSpace Dance +Detour Dance

Invention and Entertainment

Nohspace, San Francisco

December 4-13, 2015

http://www.detourdance.com/detour-emspace/

I asked the people next to me at Nohspace on Friday, November 4, which of the two offerings they liked. “Detour Dance,” they replied. Yes, I agreed. It was entertaining, eventful, lively and well performed. But Emspace’s “Whether to Weather” for this reviewer, is a real work of art, cohesive, important and beautifully written and performed.

Erin Mei-Ling Stuart, choreographer in collaboration with the performers, and writer Brian Thorstenson have produced a dance-drama that is beautiful, poignant and as well crafted as a theater piece could be. All elements, the music “recomposed by Max Richter from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” as well as “Landfall” by Sam Barnum, with lyrics by Thorstenson and Barnum support and amplify the work beautifully. All the elements support the work.

Thematically “Whether to Weather” is about friendship and contact and relationship, but it also speaks to surviving and maintaining ordinary life. These are not easy topics to address but Thorstenson’s words and the subdued excellent dance movement and spoken text carry the material, quiet but clear.

Chad Dawon and Kegan Marling are the dancers. Kegan begins and ends the work with isolations, movements of arm, torso and head that resonant with sound and the fragmented feelings. He is joined, later by Chad Dawson who partners him as echo and contrast. Soren Shone Santos and Wiley Naman Strasser are the actors. The move well and are moving. Their conversations and challenges, exchanges and comments, are at once, ordinary, complex and even ecological. The use of props, particularly ‘the focus stone’ is splendid and adds to the ‘through line’ of the drama, “Whether to Weather.”

Credits include set design by Michael Brown, lighting by Del Medoff, sound by Theodore J.H. Hulsker, costumes by George Alvarez. Kudos to one and all!

“Beckon” by Detour Dance is a series of activities from song to recitation, from group dance to various duets, from battles, physical and verbal, to apple rolling. The company of eight, five women and three men are adept at all this. What they bring to us is their love of performing with a subtext of possible embattled but loving relationships. It is good vaudeville.

The piece begins with a “Song to the Siren” by Tom Buckley” and is followed, later, by another “Witches” by Cowboy Junkies. ”There is also text: “Dutchman” by Amiri Baraka and “Dancer from the Dance” by Andrew Holler an. There is a continual juxtaposition of these events with dance confrontations and even a ‘cutie-pie” recitation about ‘Asian-fusion’ food. The later implies a satiric slur on mixed-race people.

“Beckon” goes on too long; there is too much to absorb, but what’s there is lively and entertaining.

The performers are ; Liana Burns, Kat Cole, Jana Griffin, Melissa Lewis, Kevin Lopez, Scott Marlowe, Angela Mazziotta and Wiley Naman Strasser.

San Francisco ,
Joanna Gewertz Harris, Ph.D, is a dance teacher, historian, reviewer, and lecturer. She taught dance and theater at UCB, UCSC, Cal State Hayward and Sonoma, and is a frequent contributor to scholarly journals and books, most recently to H'Doubler, and Legacy in Dance Education, both from Cambria Press. Beyond Isadora, Bay Area Dancing 1915-1965 , her book documenting Bay Area history (Price $40. + 2.00 shipping) is available from her web site beyondsadora.com and her e mail, joannagharris@comcast.net.