Wednesday, February 05, 2014

A Review of Dance Brigade's "Hemorrhage"

The Tourniquet is Economic

A Review by Wanda Sabir

I went to opening night of Dance Brigade's "Hemorrhage: An Abolition of Hope and Despair, A Dance Installation at the Intersection of the New San Francisco and World Politics" up through Feb. 8, Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. at Dance Mission, 3316 24th Street, San Francisco. When I walked into the theatre I was faced with debris--a solid waste landfill in the middle of an urban municipality. At a closer inspection we noticed that there were people living in this landscape of despair, women, who had begun to take on the colors of the emotionally and psychologically crushing environment. Obviously these women were not garbage, but if one looks at their misuse by socially sanctioned institutions then there was a synergy inherent in the abundance of potential lying wasted in front of us.   
Dance Brigade in Hemorrhage: An Ablution of Hope and Despair
photo credit: Wanda Sabir

Krissy Keefer, Artistic Director of Dance Brigade, the company's name in itself a call to action and a not so subtle hint that Dance Brigade's art is not for the faint of heart.  Keefer plays many roles, one a woman in a bathtub, a crazy woman who is wise to a fault which perhaps drives her a bit mad as she sees what is evident ignored by those with power and influence--city and other government officials. An elder, she gathers the girls to her periodically and they listen, respectfully (smile). It was cheering to see Ross Mirkarimi, San Francisco's Sheriff, with his wife in the audience that evening. Perhaps other City officials will attend or have attended on other dates. Skeeter Barker and the dancers collaboration on costume design is extraordinary, especially the use of fabric for blood stasis and in motion. . . pools of blood, the act of bleeding; blood falling pouring from mouths from the characters' bodies like petals from a flower or leaves from a tree. It's prettier than it sounds, but hey--the work is called hemorrhage. 

Certainly Hemorrhage is a urgent call for help while the life force still pumps through the veins and arteries of our bodies, our institutions which do not bleed, no matter how many laws say--corporations have rights and are legally human. What about the atrophy of the life force itself--the uterus? It would be a tragedy if the potential for change, for rebirth was ignored or tied off or excised.

We meet women here in Hemorrhage's desolate landscape who were abused as children, thrown away as adults, who sometimes doubt themselves with good reason. We meet women who were great providers for their families before they lost their employment. We meet grandmothers and girlfriends, powerful women even still or without the trappings of outward success.

"Hemorrhage" is not sad, more so sobering as these women rise and keep getting up. Drumming a force, like one's heart beat as is the really fierce dancing --both a key mainstay here as the women bleed and bleed along a trajectory which is not a part of a natural life cycle. We'd call it menses if it gave birth or menopause --a moment of rest, but to hemorrhage is to bleed uncontrollably--it is the kind of bleeding that saps one's energies, it takes one's attention from her creative work, it means that one cannot arrest the source of one's despair, it indicates an absence of control.

To hemorrhage is urgent as in call 911 or ZERO. It is the action and the spill.

Dance Brigade's "Hemorrhage" is a wake up call. People are hemorrhaging out of San Francisco, they are bleeding into the Bay and beyond-- places where, unwanted, they are swallowed whole by apathy and/or disenfranchisement.

Three of my favorite scenes were the scenes of women in black--Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere . . . and the collective mourning for women and girls whose lives were cut short too soon. I love the way the women physically lift each other up, as in over their heads, as much as I also appreciate the playfulness in the work which though it never lost its seriousness, allowed itself to let in literal and figurative light(ness) evident in what I call "the broom dance(s)" and also in the closing shake-it-off Soul Train line. Even the crazy woman was a humorous foil--not like Chicken Little, 'cause the sky really is falling here, but like a Chicken Little with clout or heart.

Harry Rubeck's lighting design, as you can tell from the photos certainly set the mood for the various vignettes 
or stories within stories, that and the lovely costumes. Hemorrhage is a collective effort from the newsreel featuring the voice of Amy Goodman, Democracy Now , Eve Ensler, Rachel Corrie, Leonard Peltier, and others, to the eclectic music and Kristofer Hall's sound design work. Nicole Klaymoon, Jose Navarrete and Stephen Funk also contributed to the choreography, with Bruce Ghent responsible for the rocking soul shifting Taiko drum compositions and Kate Boyd for the set design mentioned earlier. Somehow Phred Swain-Sugarman makes everything work as stage manager. 

This work like other work in the Dance Brigade catalog is thought-provoking but more so a call to action. Who are these folks who decide who can live in San Francisco, who send eviction notices to everyone at Midtown Apartments, a subsidized housing complex owned by the City on O'Farrell and Scott at Geary. They were to be out January 31. Many said they are not moving. These same government officials are letting City College of San Francisco struggle and flounder, its continued operation no thanks to civil apathy. I don't understand how San Francisco government can let its only community college close.

But we at the San Francisco Bay View know this machine and its implicit and explicit role in the overall hemorrhaging of citizens. It is man made--not inherited, so man and woman, the people can put their hands together and stop the bleeding. (Our blood banks are low on blood too by the way.)

Dance Brigade presents "Hemorrhage: An Abolition of Hope and Despair, A Dance Installation at the Intersection of the New San Francisco and World Politics," Jan. 24-Feb. 8, 2014, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, at 8 p.m. at Dance Mission, 3316 24th Street, San Francisco, (415) 826-4441 for information or and for tickets: 800-838-3006 or

Here is a link to an interview with Krissy Keefer at the top of the second hour:


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