Amy Seiwert: “Sketch 12”

Cowell Theater, Fort Mason: San Francisco
July 16, 2022 7:30 PM

Three works were presented in the “Imagery” evening,

First was Seiwert’s “Tides” with music by Ezio Boss. Seiwert’s notes tell us “..after 12 years of experimenting, the unexpected can still happen.” Yet the work was familiar: eight dancers, four women and four men in various groupings and duets. The center image was that of a woman being lifted by the group. Such lifts and many entrances and exits, as often seen in ballet works, continued throughout “Tides”. Perhaps that was the sustaining idea; the continual flow of movement.

Natasha Adorlee’s “Liminal Space” (in collaboration with the dancers) to a mix of music by Vivaldi, evoked Adorlee’s “most impactful moment of my life, …the loss of my father.” The work is very emotionally moving, combining a wide range of dance locomotion and many small intimate moments of touch. To a text by the choreographer, the dancers respond: touching face, limbs and one another in what she says is ”a love letter to embracing and fitting for each moment of being alive.” The work holds together with those sections.

Last on the program was Joshua L. Peugh’s “Kink” to music by Orville Peck. Peugh quotes Stephen King’s “On Writing”: “Don’t bother to read between the lines, and don’t look for a through-line. There are no lines-only snapshots, most out of focus.” The dancers share intimate moments of touching, reaching, holding and lifting. It is primarily a dance for the men in the company. The women are background.

Two dancers are outstanding, although all are competent and highly skilled. Anthony Cannarella has an unusual ability to bring lyricism and accuracy to all his performs. His focus and animation draws attention. Fortunately he danced several solos and duets.

Isaac Bates-Vinueza is also an outstanding dancer. Other in the company are: Brandon Alexander, Matisse D’Aloisio, Joseph A. Hernandez, Jenna Marie, Kelsey McFalls and Isabella Velasquez. All are exciting to watch.

Costumes are by Susan Roemer: Lighting by Brian Jones. Films by Ben Estabrook.

Missing from the credits is the wonderful woman, Pilar Marsh who did the signing for songs and narration. She is as expressive and dramatic in her communication as any of the dancers and deserves program recognition and a moment to join the company and choreographers in curtain calls. Sitting near her, downstage right and in the house, Marsh was a joy to watch.

Three notes:

  1. Choreography: Dance has changed in the last half-century that I’ve watched. Choreography, perhaps because it followed music, was thematically organized. Groups were organized to follow a rhythmic line and dance in unison. Now, dancers enter and leave the stage alone, or in small groups and interact seemingly randomly. It is challenging to watch, but untrained audiences often cannot follow the design.
  2. Footwear: Seiwert’s women dancers wore toe shoes, yet being ‘on toe’ seemed unimportant (in the classic sense of “petite pas”.) Other dancers wore flat dance shoes. But the ‘new look’ is dance socks, many colors, many styles. The bottom of the socks have tread which allows ‘no slip’ and safe, fast travel. Bare feet, once characteristic of “modern dance” are gone.
  3. Presentation: Each dance was preceded by a short film during which choreographic ideas and work process was explained and presented. For this reviewer, it was unnecessary. Although the choreographers were eager to speak about their work, I believe  (and many agreed) to “let the dances speak for themselves.”

Kiandanda Dance Theater

Friday, July 1, 2002, ODC Theater San Francisco
Presented by SFIAF, San Francisco International Arts Festival

“Religion Kitendi-Dress Code”

Kiandanda Dance Theater was founded in 2008 in the Republic of Congo. Now based in San Francisco, KDT’s “dance aesthetic is rooted in the dance cultures of the Kongo people of Central Africa.” Director Bibene’s foci are “the interdisciplinary areas of theater, traditional, Afro-urban and contemporary dance.”

There were several dimensions to this performance, including dance, film, music, all developing the theme of “dress-code”, by dance and by continuing changes of costume. The set included racks for clothes of many shapes, designs, colors and patterns. The dancers costume changes presented and amplified the theme of the film “Les Sapeurs”.

“Decked-out dandies or “sapeurs” known as “La Apologies or La Saps, (Society of Ambiance Makers and Elegant People)”… meet and compete (to see) who has the most expensive clothes and shoes.” Director Bibene “takes a critical look at this colorful sartorial scene…which has more complicated cultural implications.” (e.g. … spending thousands on clothes in a poor community.”) Charming, delightful and elegant La Saps may be but basic needs go unheeded.

The performance includes delightful dancing, lively music, many outfits to admire and a detailed film on “Les Sapeurs.” The evening included an after discussion of African fashion and group dancing.

This reviewer was most moved by Bibene’s solo. Fully dressed in an off-white suit and carrying a suitcase, he climbed a ladder, as if to “get out”. He backed down and tried again to no avail.

This short work characterized efforts so many know when limited success is achieved.

All the dancers are remarkable in their abilities to move, interact with each other and with the audience while continually changing costumes and moving furniture. Outstanding for me was Shawn Hawkins, a member of several Bay Area dance companies, his ability to move effortlessly through complex floor and aerial activity is remarkable. Seemingly without transition he moves from one level to another delighting and startling the viewer.

The company includes: Dancers Byb Chanel Bibene, Latanya D.Tigner, LaKiesha Golden, Shawn Hawkins: Composer and Live musician Manolo Davila; Light Design: Harry Rubeck.

Four videos were shown to amplify and illustrate “Religion Kitendi”.

The evening was a delightful event, showing, telling, illustrating Bibene’s stories and craft.

For this reviewer, a careful selection of the many events would strengthen the performance.




San Francisco Ballet Program 6

SF Ballet Program 6
April 6, 2022 7:30 PM
San Francisco Opera House

Tributes to Tomasson

Program 6, the next to last for the 2022 season and the final for director Helgi Tomasson, was primarily dedicated to him, presenting a revival of his work, (2000) and two by choreographers of his choice well known to San Francisco Ballet audiences.

Prism” to Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No.1” involves three sections, each providing the enthusiastic audience to see soloists, duets and a trio in action. Section 1 was danced by principles Max Cauthorn, Sasha de Sola and Lonnie Weeks. The movement flowed lyrically among the three; a small chorus echoed their movements. Section 2 was graced by Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helmets as a glorious ‘pas de duet”. Tan, a soloist for many years with SFB, showed a dramatic maturity and skill wonderfully realized. This reviewer especially noted her arms, back and general projection which, with tall Helmets support, achieved superb technical and dynamic expression. The final section, 3, is dominated by Julian Mackay who seems to challenge the entire ensemble into action. “Prism” is a lively work, an opportunity to see earlier Tomasson choreography originally done at his former dance home, the NYCity Ballet.

Finale Finale” to the delightful “Le Boeuf sur le Toit, Op. 58″, music by Darius Milhaud, was the hit of the evening. It resonates with images of “Commedia del Arte”, those lively actors of earlier centuries whose playing is the basis of theater comedy today.

In delightful spotted and patched costumes, (by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung), the dancers were light hearted, their movements full of physical “jokes” (wiggles, bumps, etc.). Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon says, “…I wanted a piece that felt celebratory and captured a light spirit…”. He accomplished his wish. “Finale Finale” includes (as Milhaud notes), “popular tunes, maxis, sambas and even a Portuguese fado.” Today’s audiences may not recognize those dance rhythms, but the dancers played and romped with the rhythms, giving us great pleasure with their skill, humor and beats. The seven dancers are: Doris André, Joseph Walsh, Isabel Devivo, Benjamin Freemantle, Cavan Conley, Elizabeth Powell and Esteban Hernandez. Bravo all!

The Promised Land”, a new work by choreographer Dwight Rhoden whose work had been seen previously in SFB’s Unbound Festival. Rhoden has assembled various music piece by Rodrigo Sigal, Luke Howard, Philip Glass, Kirill Richter and Hans Zimmer. The work is also a collection of short dance pieces, dancers constantly entering and leaving the stage. Led by Esteban Hernandez, “The Promised Land” has six sections, all moving very fast. The men dominate each section; there are many lifts, tosses and almost acrobatic work for the duets and complex floor work for the men and ensembles. Performers include: Frances Chung, Angelo Greco, Wanting Zhao, Benjamin Freemantle, Joseph Walsh, Isabella Devivo, Sasha de Sola and Wei Wong with eight others joining them in the frantic event. For this reviewer, lively as it all was, the lights were focused directly at the audience, the constant change of stage events and the curious, but uncertain dramatic intentions of the soloist, Esteban Hernandez, made “The Promised Land” less than satisfactory. It is a complex work with remarkable technical feats throughout the choreography, but as a closing work on a complex program, it did not leave the audience content, although most cheered.

Program 6 will be repeated through April 12. Check with for dates and times. Audiences are looking forward to the classic “Swan Lake” which will end the season.