West Wave Dance Festival Program 2
ODC Theater, San Francisco
July 24, 2004

I can?t think of a better way to jump back into the San Francisco dance scene than to rush right over to the West Wave Dance Festival, which is what I did Saturday night. With 22 choreographers and 15 premieres crammed into two weeks, it?s truly a crash course in Bay Area dance. One of the festival?s better innovations in recent years has been to divide the programs between the black box ODC Theater and the much larger proscenium Cowell Theater, scheduling the bigger names at the bigger venue. Saturday?s program at ODC had an in-your-face spirit that the proximity between performers and audience only enhanced. There were no revelations, but no stinkers either.

The most distinctive offering was Scott Wells?s ?Duet in three parts: Fun. Struggle. May-be Beauty,? danced to silence by Gabriel Forestieri and Christine Cali. Wells tends to dress his powerful women like disheveled 1960?s prom queens, and for their first encounter Forestieri took the stage in slacks and button-down shirt, Cali in a bubblegum pink dress. The skirt draped Forestieri?s head as she sat on his shoulders and he spun in rapture. After a perky phone message interlude, the two reemerged wearing black and white, their relationship having entered a starker phase. A dial tone droned and the couple entered again naked, backbending over one another, ending in a signature Wells position?her crotch on his face.

Wells has an impeccable sense of dramatic timing and an individualistic movement vocabulary, something the less experienced choreographers on the program lacked. Brittany Brown Ceres?s ?Wandrian,? set to tense Charles Amirkhanian, flowed cleanly through space but was cluttered with motifs, finally ending with the six dancers on their stomachs, echoing the position in which they?d slid toward the wings earlier. Linda Brown?s orange and blue patchwork bellbottom costumes were enormously distracting.

Erin Mei-Ling Stuart?s ?Songs for You? was one of the most engaging works I?ve seen by her, a pissy-faced romp for six disaffected youths, set to defeatist tunes by the Mountain Goats. The six dancers shook their heads and hands in frustration and coupled like patrons in a smoky pool hall, angry at the world. Ostrich-like Ann Berman presided over the despair with her intense stare; Damara Ganley and Julie Sheetz were also excellent.

Lisa Townsend, a striking blond athlete of a dancer, premiered ?that I am not you,? a quirky if overlong duet with Alisa Rasera performed to the spoken word non-sequiturs of Tom Patton. For ?TRIO (in the space between), Deborah Slater took inspiration from a painting of three confrontational women by Alan Feltus. The tension held frozen in the artwork remained strangely static when brought to motion, despite striking costumes by Jeanne Henzel and unflinching performances by Deborah Miller, Kerry Mehling, and Rachel Whiting.

Company M?canique Dance Theater closed the evening with a commission by Sara Shelton Mann. I wasn?t in San Francisco for Mann?s high season as the leader of Contraband, but her whiplash influence on the younger generation is obvious. In ?Eddy/against the main current,? set to James Kass?s anti-Bush ?Bad Revolution Poem? and grinding music by Daniel Berkman, it was good to go back to the source. The six dancers infused the movement?s ragged edges with a repressed rage just one degree shy of boiling over.

The West Wave Dance Festival?s next program, with works by Heidi Schweiker, Stephanie Gilliland, Janice Garrett, Nancy Karp, and Capacitor, runs Thursday and Friday at the Cowell Theater.

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