Voice of Dance?s Allan Ulrich is unmoved by John Jasperse?s ?CALIFORNIA?:
?There is a moment in John Jasperse?s CALIFORNIA when you suddenly sit up, giddy with delight. A man bends and nuzzles his female partner like a youthful gazelle expressing affection for another of its own kind. It?s not a revelatory gesture, but in the context of the gelid, but smoothly honed formalism of this 55-minute piece, the moment arrives like a minor earthquake. Here, for an instant, we happen upon a recognizable human emotion. We can, in the cheesy parlance of an earlier era, relate to the movement scheme before us.
Jasperse?s work, premiered in France last year at the Festival International de la Danse a Cannes, marked the New York-based postmodernist?s Bay Area debut, while the weekend?s two performances at San Francisco?s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater also inaugurated the first extensive season of presentations by the center?s new executive director Ken Foster. It?s genuinely comforting to discover that Foster is making an effort to book out-of-town companies overlooked by the more conservative presenters. The substantial number of local dancers and choreographers in the audience last Friday (Sept. 17) testified to the community?s interest in Jasperse. But I wonder what they could possibly have taken away with them – except for a certain satisfaction in their own work, the knowledge that they weren?t missing anything.?
I found the work respectably intelligent, though it neither excited me nor lingered long in mind. Of my native state California it told me nothing, though with conceptual work of this nature you hardly expect illumination on such literal matters. I must have arrived with excess caffeine in my system, because I found my attention holding steady to marvel at how thoughtfully the movement mirrored the construction of architect Ammar Eloeuini?s overhead sculpture. It was made of sort of translucent plastic scalene triangles joined together to create an undulating plane (if such a thing is possible) of rectangles. I need an illustration. At any rate, the dancing folded in the same way the sculpture did. Much of it took place with the dancer bent at the waist, touching the floor, arms and legs walking side to side to create an endless series of triangles. Interesting too was the final appearance of the leaf blowers, when the dancers lay with them across their stomach, turning on the machines in little huffs. It was like breath made extra-noisy, a kind of electric-powered resuscitation.