Sunday, March 09, 2014

Black Choreographers Festival 10th Anniversary Season closed with a bang at ODC Theatre in San Francisco. Robert Moses Kin were clearly the star attraction as they moved from one world premiere to another as first Moses then guest choreographer, Gregory Dawson set work on a company which could shift through so many artistic terrains, the elegant yet gutsy Ark to 808 KICK revised. At times the dancers were so close a few of us were tempted to reach out and touch them. Do we dare?

But we reluctantly resisted . . .

It was Draft, though with original music by Robert Moses which awed and amazed us. How did 13 collaborators and dancers come together for one night and take work made separately and create an orchestrated ensemble piece that made sense?

Afterward, as I completed the audience survey taped to my seat, when I got to the question about process, I asked for more back story on process--how did Robert Moses do this? I am reminded of Billy Higgins all drummer ensembles and Tootie Heath's conducting of the tribute to Higgins at Healdburg Jazz Festival the year he passed.

The drummers were all on stage along with other musicians like the Heath Brothers, who were still on this side of the forest at that time and standing in front Tootie would raise his hands and point to various musicians to take the solo as the music continued.

In Draft, obviously the order had been worked out in advance--however, unless one knew a chorograper's signature, it might have proven difficult to tell who choreographed what. Afterward in the lobby the artists and creative teams mingled, but even a day later as I spoke to Reginald Ray Savage who I saw the next evening at Diamano Coura's Collage des Africains when he told me which part was his, I couldn't quite remember it.

Draft was the kind of experience one probably needed to see more than once--I hope this happens again and when it does that the rehearsal is open to the public. The mastery of the Moses's company and the other dancers who are the crem de la crem in the San Francisco Bay Area is a microcosm of the perfect world, one where people bring themselves to the table and from this meeting comes a product all can be proud of. At the point of performance something new is created which would not have been possible without the totality of its parts--all of us.

Yes, as witnesses we were too participating and so Draft excludes no one.

BCHN 10 was pretty remarkable. I wish I'd been able to take a few photos of Draft or Ark or the lovely Snapshots of Longing by Bliss Kohlmyer -- a lovely duet with Jackie Goneconti and Victor Talledos. He really wanted her and as soon as he thought he did, she was gone. It was only when he let go did she stay. In three parts, the couple were like the tide at moonrise . . . ebbing and flowing into each others arms.

808 KICK revised had Moses's Kin leaping and lifting--it was a very brisk, powerful work that really showed off the bodies of the cast as they exhibited such stamina. It is a really pretty piece--the men allowed to shine as they leaped and spun, movements often saved for the female body.  There were the duets and company pieces --in total the work just continued the Dawson waves I'd been riding since the prior week with his birds eye view.

Impulse was a nice additional funky set in the midst of classically modern motifs--not to say it was straight hip hop. Nope, Dexandro "D" Montalvo, a member of Kin who danced in Draft, choreographed Impulse in 10 hours (he told me later) and featured four female dancers (one a 16 year old student--all smiles), in black.

It was a fun piece. Constrained by the choreography, the dancers couldn't really respond to the music as they moved like a threaded needle between under and through each other-- I know, hard to imagine. The hip hop moves for those that know the genre were evident as the dancers soloed --performed together and in duets, and triads.

Well titled, Impulse spoke to a need to be able to exercise restraint and control one's impulse to jazz, jive and move--as a soloist does before she catches herself. This was the moment I was waiting for -- a window of pure movement.

The dancer begins to pat her foot and move her body.


I kept wondering when the choreography would if not loosen up at least allow space for enjoyment. The dancers were kept busy. Every moment was orchestrated, planned, occupied. I wonder if a complete denial of impulse is the space where one ceases to be?


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