I reviewed the first three programs of the WestWave Dance Festival for today’s Chronicle:

“Must the WestWave Dance Festival feel like such a slog? Now in its 15th year, it’s the anchor of the slow summer dance calendar and a useful survey of what’s happening in Bay Area dance. Transcendent discoveries can be made — I remember first seeing Janice Garrett’s soul-stirring work at the WestWave four years ago — but only by the truly patient. Executive director Joan Lazarus strives to keep an open door for choreographers in all stages of development, arranging them on programs driven more by logistics than curatorial vision. She should close that door more often. Dance in San Francisco is far more vibrant than the festival’s first three programs would make you think.

That’s not to say that involving, promising, even accomplished dance works weren’t to be found last week at Project Artaud Theater, where the festival continues with six more programs through July 30. Erin Mei-Ling Stuart’s “You and You and You” artfully draped the topless bodies of Damara Ganley, Noel Plemmons and Julie Sheetz in elegantly sculptural arrangements. Marlena Penney Oden and Isabelle Sjahsam stepped chicly through Leyya Tawil’s highly stylish “Breakdown to Now,” to sensuous electronic music by Tawil’s longtime collaborator, Topher Keys. Sean Dorsey and Courtney Moreno swayed tenderly in Dorsey’s well-crafted and touching “In Closing.”

The problem was that these are artists who can rightly be called “emerging choreographers”: committed, talented dancemakers whose work is in early stages of development and just beginning to find its audience. Whereas the WestWave Dance Festival chose to set the bar a rung lower, with a special program Thursday for choreographers — several of whom appeared to have made work only for their own living rooms — who could fairly be classed amateurs. ”

This review is unusual for me; I usually devote far more space to describing the actual dances, giving some visual sense of their qualities. But after three programs, I felt something in the curating was askew and decided to write about the structure of the festival itself. Apologies to those choreographers whose works therefore got shorter treatment, and to those whose works didn’t make it into the review (I saw something like 18 works over those three nights, so omissions had to be made). I regret not getting Christy Funsch’s piece into the review, as her vocabulary has an appealing softness and her performances are always lovely. I also regret not having space for Kerry Mehling’s clever solo set to a text by Dorothy Parker. But I know other critics noticed the piece, and I’m sure kudos will be coming her way.

Anyway, for my full review of the West Wave, click here.

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