I’m back–back from graduate school residency in North Carolina at Warren Wilson College, back into the intensive work of a second semester, and happily back out reviewing dance for the Chronicle. It’s nearly the start of the San Francisco Ballet’s big 75th anniversary season, of course–the gala kickoff comes next Wednesday–and February and March are looking busy, with appointments to see Robert Moses’ Kin, the State Ballet of Georgia, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Nacho Duato’s Compania Nacional de Danza, ODC, and many others.
After nearly a month since my last review, I jumped in again with Keith Hennessy’s Circo Zero:
“If you’re not a follower of the more subversive side of the San Francisco dance scene, Keith Hennessy may be the most revered dancer/performance artist/self-proclaimed prophet/political provocateur you’ve never heard of. A member of the rabble-rousing collective Contraband in the late ’80s and early ’90s, he’s probably best known for once gathering spit from his audience, mixing it with black pigment, and pasting it on his naked body in a visceral rejection of AIDS fear-mongering. In the past decade, though, he’s turned from quasi-rituals to a new form – circus – with increasingly successful results.
“Sol Niger,” performed by his troupe Circo Zero, was so popular during its premiere last fall that Hennessy has brought it back for another two-week run at Project Artaud Theater. During Wednesday’s opening, it was obvious why the Hennessy faithful have been passionate about this production. To a less converted viewer, though, the 70-minute show leaves a residue of reservations alongside its striking images.
The title “Sol Niger” is Latin for “black sun,” a poetic description of solar eclipse that here cuts two ways: as a symbol for dark times and as a belief that sometimes the deepest truths are glimpsed in shadow. Cirque du Soleil, of course, this is not. “Welcome to the circus where bodies are metaphors and every gesture is symbolic!” Seth Eisen’s creepy ringmaster shouts, cleverly winking at the relatively low-rent nature of the spectacle: “Watch Emily tread upon the world’s poor,” he says as Emily Leap steps across her castmates’ hands, “four feet above the ground!” ”
Click here for the full review in today’s SF Chronicle.