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Scott Wells & Dancers: 'the why ask why we dance dance'

by Joanna G. Harris
January 30, 2015
ODC Theater
3153 17th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9834
Joanna G. Harris
Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
Scott Wells has been doing his kind of dance/theater/improvisation work for some time; specifically contact improvisation since 1981. Although he and his company have leaned other dance modes, it is contact - its freedom, athleticism, and personal as well as public confrontation that characterizes its special presentation.

For this winter season, Wells choreographed "the why ask why we dance dance" (premiere) to give the performers opportunities to state their 'dance' stories. For example, Michaela Burns told that her dance training was the usual 'follow the teacher' and that contact allowed her choice and freedom. All the stories were fascinating although voice projection and a little acting training would better get them across. The most inventive of the group was Cason MacBride who took performance improvisation to delightful extremes.

The work consisted of various episodes in which the dancers addressed and confronted each other with contact of all sorts: running, jumping, catching, sprawling, rolling, leaning and resting. There were surprises and many repetitions. Gravity demanded attention at all times. For this reviewer, as a choreographer, more choreographic variations in the dynamics of running, catching, lifting and falling would have been more pleasant. But, if one accepts the form as is, it is delightful and vital.

The first piece on the program was "Mutually Assured" (premiere) an improvisation directed by Ericka Tsimbrovshy and Scott Wells.

Although performed by almost all of the same group as "The why," it felt less complete as presentation. Again, one must accept improvisation as such. The dancers were: Daniel Davis, Rosemary Hannon, Carson MacBride, Ericka Tsimbrovsky, Ronja Ver, and Miriam Woodarski. To this group, for "The Why" were added Virginia Broyles, Michaela Burns, Sebastian Grubb, Keillye McKee, Jared Wiltse, and Shira Yaziv. All are spectacular performers.

Various music excerpts accompanied the work, though did not figure as real accompaniment. The effective lighting design was by Allen Wilner.

Wells is to be congratulated for his continual ability to train, organize and accomplish such presentations as these contact-improvisations as performance. Sometime, somehow, I would wish they would become more like dance structures with more varied space design and dynamics.
Shira Yaziv and Virginia Broyles in Scott Wells' 'The why ask why we dance dance.'

Shira Yaziv and Virginia Broyles in Scott Wells' "The why ask why we dance dance."

Photo © & courtesy of David Papas

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