SF Walking Distance Dance Festival – Kate Weare, Brian Brooks and others

Kate Weare Company in <I>Drop Down</I>.<br />© Kate Weare Company. (Click image for larger version)
Kate Weare Company in Drop Down.
© Kate Weare Company. (Click image for larger version)

The Walking Distance Dance Festival – SF
Kate Weare CompanyThe Light Has Not the Arms to Carry Us and Drop Down
Scott Wells & DancersParkour Deux (reviewed 30 May 2012)
Brian Brooks Moving CompanyI’m Going to Explode
ODC/DanceCut Out Guy (reviewed 16 August 2012)
San Francisco, ODC Theater and Studio B, San Francisco
31 May and 1 June 2013
ODC page on Walking Distance Dance Festival

The Walking Distance Dance Festival – SF sounds like an odd name for a festival, yet there is a perfect explanation.  The two venues, ODC Theater and Studio B, each have a company performing at 7 p.m. then, during intermission, the entire audience in one venue walks half a block down Shotwell Street for the 8 p.m. show by a different company in the other space.  The roster for the three programs over two days had seven dance companies, of which I caught four.

Kate Weare, originally from the Bay Area and now based in New York, is easily the most intriguing choreographer in the festival.  It certainly helps that she also has outstanding dancers who have worked with her for a number of years and truly dance as an ensemble.  Weare makes work that deals with how identity and the search for identity intersect with the expression of eroticism within sexual roles.  Needless to say, her choreography is extremely physical and provocative.

Kate Weare Company in <I>The Light Has Not the Arms to Carry Us</I>.<br />© Kate Weare Company. (Click image for larger version)
Kate Weare Company in The Light Has Not the Arms to Carry Us.
© Kate Weare Company. (Click image for larger version)

In The Light Has Not the Arms to Carry Us, one woman, Leslie Kraus, and two men, Douglas Gillespie and T.J. Spaur, appear in separate sections.  While the two men sit at the side and watch, Kraus first dances a solo that begins simply with ordinary movements – nodding her head, bowing – and gradually embellishes and elaborates those shapes and steps into a complex body monologue.  The internal conversation moves with striking intelligence through the gamut of textures and dynamics and reaches an orgasmic finale. The superlative Kraus is always physically in control even while letting go completely in the realm of expression.

The second part is a pas de deux for two men.  They walk center and begin moving in unison.  The steps slowly evolve organically, fluidly demonstrating contrasts – slow and fast, soft and hard – with occasional breaks in the simultaneous execution becoming more frequent.  Then they begin partnering each other and now the differences in movement quality and speed are used to express the feelings that pass between them.  This pas de deux is both highly emotional and intensely erotic.  It merges two paths of how people relate to one another into one stairway that with every step pushes each element more powerfully toward the other while climbing higher and higher.  Gillespie and Spaur give an excellent performance on a par with the previous solo by Kraus.

Kate Weare Company in <I>Drop Down</I>.<br />© Kate Weare Company. (Click image for larger version)
Kate Weare Company in Drop Down.
© Kate Weare Company. (Click image for larger version)

Weare explores the dynamics of a relationship between a man and a woman in Drop Down.  The clarity of the steps allows dancers Kraus and Luke Murphy to concentrate on the emotional underpinnings.   One moment they torment each other in a fight and the next they melt into tender reconciliation.  As with the first dance, the sizzling sexual overlay, creates highlights and shadings of meaning in the interactions of the couple.  Stunning choreography meets breathtaking performing.  What more could you ask for?

The next night in the ODC Theater I see Scott Wells & Dancers perform Parkour Deux, which I reviewed last spring.  It’s interesting to note how being in a larger space changes the interplay between the dancers.  The smaller CounterPulse space made them more intimate both with each other and the audience.

Scott Wells and Dancers in Parkour Deux.© David Papas. (Click image for larger version)
Scott Wells and Dancers in Parkour Deux.
© David Papas. (Click image for larger version)

A brief stroll down the street to Studio B and I arrive at where I see the Brian Brooks Moving Company from New York.  Actually, Brooks does a solo, I’m Going to Explode, in its West Coast premiere.  Profile to the audience, sitting in a chair in a business suit, Brooks takes off his shoes, then rises and removes his jacket.  After he walks toward the other side of the stage, the music, LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge” starts and he begins swinging his arms, first very fast, then slowing down.  Gradually he adds shoulders, feeding off the intense beat of the music, then torso.  Pretty soon he’s turning around and using his feet.  Brooks totally embodies the driving quality of both rhythm and lyrics and is on the verge of destruction as he gyrates around the floor.  The music stops and he walks back to the chair, puts on his jacket, then sits down and crams his feet into his shoes.    Though Brooks is a riveting performer and the steps themselves are interesting in their progression from simple to complex, the subject matter – wanting to break out of conformity – lags far behind the other outstanding components.

Brian Brooks.© Christopher Duggan. (Click image for larger version)
Brian Brooks.
© Christopher Duggan. (Click image for larger version)

The pieces I’ve seen so far are all very energetically physical and they try to reveal interior lives; KT Nelson’s Cut Out Guy, which closes the evening, is no exception.  I saw this piece last summer and reviewed it then.  Now in a different venue, with a different cast, the nuances have shifted.  The men’s vulnerability seems to make them more isolated from each other, instead of fostering more connection.

In the future I hope the Walking Distance Dance Festival – SF can continue to bring work by choreographers from outside the Bay Area.  We might not get the chance to see them otherwise and based on what I’ve just seen, that would be really be a pity.

About the author

Aimee Tsao

Aimée Ts'ao, a San Francisco dance writer, has appeared in Dance Magazine, was dance critic for the Bay Area Reporter and was the senior ballet editor for the Dance Insider Online. She lets her previous incarnation as a professional dancer (ballet and modern) imbue her perspective and hopes you like the resulting flavour.

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