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A World View: The San Francisco International Arts Festival

by Joanna G. Harris
May 19, 2012
Marines Memorial Theatre
609 Sutter Street

San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 771-6900
Joanna G. Harris
Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
The San Francisco International Arts Festival brought no fewer than five companies together as a finale to the festival on Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 7 and 9 PM. What a marathon! There were familiar San Francisco dancers as well as unique visitors from Switzerland, Finland, The Netherlands and Estonia.

Switzerland's Cie 7273, (the years of the performers birth) a company consisting of Nicolas Cantillon and Laurence Yadi, presented the marvelous American guitar virtuoso, Sir Richard Bishop and the dancer Nicolas Cantillon, in "Listen and Watch". Yadi was not there. For 35 minutes Cantillon moved through a succession of emblematic images taken from dance, sport and politics. This virtuoso solo was intriguing, since the dancer stayed in one place, constantly rotating, adding and eliminating gestures. Although the program suggests that the same phrase is never repeated, the work felt rhythmically repetitious and consistently introspective. Bishop's playing, a long guitar drone, was superb.

Dance Elixir featuring local dancer Leyya Mona Tawil and Lars J. Brouwer, a Dutch composer then gave us "THIEVES", a duet danced by Jeremiah Crank and Isabelle Sjahsam. The dancers moved in mysterious lighting, across the stage and back, approaching and retreating on some seemingly strange errand. After a very slow and secretive set of these advance/retreat activities, the dance grew livelier, the dancers interacting with the sounds generated by a live musician. "THIEVES" was one of the best works Tawil has given Bay Area audiences. An unnamed lighting designer deserves credit for his evocative design.

Cid Pearlman is a well-known San Francisco dancer. She has been working in Estonia and for "This is What We Do in Winter" she brought together American and Estonian dancers who had worked together in Estonia getting to know one another during one of the country's long dark winters. The piece was a refreshing mixture of folk dance idioms and contact improvisation. Getting to know one another seemed to include the now too-much-seen-and-used set of lifts, carries, falls and tumbles used by many contemporary dance companies. This group was less technical in its approach and seemed to enjoy each other mightily. The dancers were: David King; Tiina Molder; Helen Reitsnik; Alexis Steeves; and Rain Saukas. Jonathan Segal provided the music.

As it approached and past 10 PM, the audience took a deep breath and faced the last two works. Locals Post:Ballet with choreography by Robert Dekkers, offered the world premiere of "Mine is Yours", an inquiry into American society's perspective on sharing and community, especially where relationships and sexuality were concerned. What we saw was an extremely tall man dressed in a long skirt, Domenico Luciano, beset by three small women, Ashley Flaner, Raychel Diane Weiner and Hiromi Yamazaki who besieged him, conspiring together to jump, roll, assault and generally attack him. In turn, he lifted and carried them, sometimes accepting but generally rejecting their advances. This work (as is stated in the program) supposedly questions "monogamy, sexual orientation, family dynamics, infidelity and marriage". Further research on these subjects and their possible choreographic evidence was surely needed. The work was superficial.

And finally, we saw Finland's Susanna Leinonen Company in the U.S. premiere of "Chinese Objects" (2005) with music by Kasperi Laine, the dancers, Heidi Lehtoranta, Laura Lohi appeared in 'robot like' costumes and executed some remarkable technical feats only to return to the robot poses. It was unclear how this reflected "Chinese Objects", but choreographer Susanna Leinonen seemed to find it so. Had this work appeared earlier in the evening, it might have received greater attention and response. Skilled as it was, it was not appealing. The Light Design was by Hanna Käyhkö: Costume Design by Erika Turunen.

Andrew Wood, director of SFIAF deserves many kudos for bringing so many and so varied a range of artists to San Francisco.

Sometimes, however, less is more, particularly in the case of multiple dance events in one evening. We are enlightened, but overexposed.
'This is what we do in winter', choreographed by Cid Pearlman, created with and performed by Tiina Mölder, Helen Reitsnik, Rain Saukas, Alexis Steeves and David King.

"This is what we do in winter", choreographed by Cid Pearlman, created with and performed by Tiina Mölder, Helen Reitsnik,
Rain Saukas, Alexis Steeves and David King.

Photo © & courtesy of Beau Saunders

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