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EmSpace Dance & Detour Dance Joint Program Produces Mixed Results

by Joanna G. Harris
December 6, 2015
NOHspace
2840 Mariposa Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 621-0507
Joanna G. Harris Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
I asked the people next to me at San Francisco's NOHspace on Friday, November 4, which of the two offerings they liked.
“Detour Dance,” they replied. Yes, I agreed. It was entertaining, eventful, lively and well performed. But
Emspace’s Whether to Weather for this reviewer, is a real work of art, cohesive, important and beautifully written and performed.

Erin Mei-Ling Stuart, choreographer in collaboration with the performers, and writer Brian Thorstenson have produced a dance-drama that is beautiful, poignant and as well-crafted as a theater piece could be. All elements, the music - recomposed by Max Richter from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” - as well as “Landfall” by Sam Barnum, with lyrics by Thorstenson and Barnum support and amplify the work beautifully. All the elements supported the work.

Thematically Whether to Weather is about friendship,contact and relationship, but it also speaks to surviving and maintaining ordinary life. These are not easy topics to address but Thorstenson’s words and the subdued excellent dance movement and spoken text carry the material, quiet but clear.

Chad Dawon and Kegan Marling were the dancers. Marling begins and ends the work with isolations, arm, torso and head movements that resonante with sound and fragmented feelings. He was later joined by Chad Dawson who partnered him as echo and contrast. Soren Shone Santos and Wiley Naman Strasser were the actors. They moved well and were moving in their potrayals. Their conversations, exchanges and comments, were at once, ordinary, complex and even ecological. Their use of props, particularly "the focus stone" was splendid and added to the through-line of Whether to Weather.

Credits include set design by Michael Brown, lighting by Del Medoff, sound by Theodore J.H. Hulsker, costumes by George Alvarez. Kudos to one and all!

Beckon by Detour Dance is a series of activities from song to recitation, from group dance to various duets, from battles, physical and verbal, to apple rolling. The company of eight, five women and three men were adept at all this. What they brought to us was their love of performing with a subtext of possible embattled but loving relationships. It was good vaudeville.

The piece began with a “Song to the Siren” by Tom Buckley” and was followed later by another, “Witches” by Cowboy Junkies. There was also text: “Dutchman” by Amiri Baraka and “Dancer from the Dance” by Andrew Holleran. There was a continual juxtaposition of these events with dance confrontations and even a "cutie-pie" recitation about Asian-fusion food. The latter implied a satiric slur on mixed-race people.

Beckon went on too long; there was too much to absorb, but what was there was lively and entertaining.

The performers were: Liana Burns, Kat Cole, Jana Griffin, Melissa Lewis, Kevin Lopez, Scott Marlowe, Angela Mazziotta and Wiley Naman Strasser.
Emspace’s Chad Dawson (front) and Kegan Marling (rear) in Erin Mei-Ling Stuart's “Whether to Weather.”

Emspace’s Chad Dawson (front) and Kegan Marling (rear) in Erin Mei-Ling Stuart's “Whether to Weather.”

Photo © & courtesy of Lydia Daniller

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