CounterPulse 80 Turk St. San Francisco, CA
New works by Jim Cave, Nol Simonse and Christy Funsch
September 8-10, 2022

What (and how) does an audience see, learn, accept, know, question … enjoy?

Two performance events marked the events at Counterpulse on Saturday, September 9 when I attended the performance. First on the evening was “Untitled (death pod”.

The dramatic piece was performed by Jim Cave and Nol Simonse with music by Emma Tome. The word “drama” is significant in this event. Each moment held suspense; each action was deliberate, carefully ‘choreographed’; each moment developed the inevitability of the next moment into the “death pod.” The work was fine drama.

Cave enters fully dressed and slowly strips himself of outer garments. He approaches a ‘burial space”, as a bird like figure (Simonse) approaches and gently executes the death ritual. Cave speaks throughout the event. The process is inevitable and fascinating but each step is clear. We are left knowing what has occurred yet curious to know more. “Untitled” is a satisfying, contained work that the audience accepted and enjoyed.

kid subjunctive” is an event in which “performance, conversation, movement and sound generation ‘ is by Christy Funsch, Emily Hansel, Zoe Huey, Peiling Kai, Jenna Marie and Phoenicia Pettyjohn. For this event only five of the six performers were present. Other credits went to Sharon DeRyan for “early investigation” and Lou Reed, “Metal Machine Music” (used without permission.) Text was by the performers.

A microphone, “downstage left” was used to transmit sound and words. Alas for this listener the sounds nor words were not always clear.

The dancers, in various ‘everyday’ outfits, shorts, pants, T-shirts move beautifully alone and sometimes with two or three others. Funsch started with the group, left and returned. The dancers moved across and through the space using moderately easy effort, although there were sometimes dynamic changes. As the piece finished, the dancers grouped around the microphone and then completed the work, each alone.

This audience member, although trained to watch movement, dance and choreography found it difficult to create a ‘collected’ set of images as the piece proceeded. Each solo dance, duet and trio was well performed although they spread throughout the space.

One had to choose where to focus, so no ‘collective’ impact was established. My old dance brain kept saying “Increase excitement by diminishing space” and although curtains were drawn to ‘contain’ the space, it continued to be a challenge to “see.”

Funsch’s work is challenging in the freedom it provides for the dancers, the space and the “score”, but in this event, especially following the dramatic piece that preceded it, “kid subjunctive” might have come first on the program, used more space limitations and helped audience focus on the brilliant dance moves performed.