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SHARED SPACE 5: New Dances by Todd Eckert and Nol Simonse

by Joanna G. Harris
March 2, 2012
Dance Mission Theater
3316 24th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 826-4441
Joanna G. Harris
Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
Todd Eckert and Nol Simonse offered five works on SHARED SPACE 5. There was a premiere of Simonse work-in-progress "Up Too Late" and a repeat of a somewhat revised showing of last year's "Etudes in Detention".

While Eckert's dances were pleasantly lyrical, it was Simonse's dance-theater works that were the hits of the evening.

Eckert's first number was "Parallel Lives", a male duet for him and Kai Medeiros. It was a strong partner piece, the dancers echoing each other's movement, coming close and moving away. The vocabulary for this and Eckert's other works on the program consisted of strong arm swings, one–legged falls to the floor, partner entwining and the much used contemporary vocabulary of lifts, body contact and balances. For this viewer, that vocabulary tended to carry the same dynamic: a low to middle level of energy that never varies. Rhythmically it grew dull. "Parallel Lives" was the strongest, clearest use of this material. The men projected well.

Sadly that was not true for the two works Eckert made for women. "Not a Through Street" to the commissioned score "Ji" by Dohi Moon involved five women in similar swings, twists and falls.

Although there were several interesting spatial groupings (two against three, two, two and one) the piece went on and on and on. The dancers, Alisa Dillon-Ogden, Norma Fong, Caitlin Kolb, Emma Salmon and Megan Wright all performed well. Their contact with the audience however needed improvement.

Eckert's third piece "Cascade" with three of the same five dancers (Dillon-Ogden, Salmon, Wright) gave us much of the same. Wright's ballet training was clearly visible.

These are good dances, but they need more dynamic variation and focus.

Someday we will be privileged to have a whole evening of Simonse work. He is a master of dance-theater. "Up Too Late" was a take on a "Kafka sex party" in progress. As actor-dancers, Tanya Bello as the Drag-on Lady, Laura Bernasconi as Nurse It's Cracky and Marina Fukushima as Shiny Metal Carpet Monster, all gave us shape and character in movement and intention that was hilarious. We need humor in dance and Simonse as Greg-or certainly gave it to us.

It was a treat to review "Etudes in Detention", Simonse 2011 piece with the accomplished Christy Funsch. "Etudes" was nominated for an "Izzie" last year; it deserves multiple viewings and more awards.

Through several scenes, Simonse and Funsch portray two young people stuck in detention (or another minimal setting) who, step by step gain release, through movement sequences that are sometimes sentimental, sometimes wistful and often hilarious. It was emotionally tender when the two took time to discover each other, touching one another in postures on the floor. It was wonderful when a stepladder became the center pole for circus banners and the dancers careened wildly through space around it.

Simonse and Funsch have a range of movement and skill that is truly amazing and pleasing whether. We look forward to seeing "Etudes" again on a forthcoming Simonse evening.
Nol Simonse and Christy Funsch in 'Etudes in Detention'

Nol Simonse and Christy Funsch in "Etudes in Detention"

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