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Direction and Meaning Clouded in Hope Mohr Dance Program at ODC

by Joanna G. Harris
June 12, 2016
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
Hope Mohr has messages to deliver. She states in her program notes, “I constantly wonder whether I’m using rules to protect myself from the unknown or to access it.”

Mohr's “Manifesting” and “Stay,” presented June 9-11 at ODC Theater, beg that question. Both works use floor movement, a mixture of text, music and props that are all juxtaposed as a series of fragmented events. The chaotic result is somewhere between a "happening" and a post-post modern work.

In the world-premiere of “Manifesting,” texts are proclaimed from Rainer, Artaud and Tzara, dance and theater inventors whose works eventually became mainstream. Initially aimed at protesting then existing art forms, their works are now models for 20th century (mid 60s and after) performances. Mohr’s group screams the words, writes more manifestos, (wearing white masks), then tear the papers and litter the space. Are these actions a repetition of proclamations or a resignation to futility? Or just dance play? It is all seriously intended and well-executed…but unclear as to its direction. Do they desire a new manifesto or just replicating the old since new ones seem challenging?

“Stay” (2015), subtitled “a choreographic response to the paintings of Frances Bacon" is even more challenging to those not familiar with Bacon's work. Critic John Russell wrote that the crucifixion in Bacon's work is a "generic name for an environment in which bodily harm is done to one or more persons and one or more other persons gather to watch,” and that Bacon is "the most important painter of the disquieting human figure in the 50's of the 20th century."

What was disquieting was that “Stay” was divided between three male dancers Michael Gallaway, James Graham, Parker Murphy and two women, Lindsy Renee Derry and Jane Selna. The men were in black ‘monastic’ robes, the women in bikini like suits. The homoerotic element between Murphy and Graham was intense and obvious. There was also an animal dimension in Gallaway’s dance. The women flew free.

Mohr has been recognized as an inventive choreographer. She has received much recognition in the Bay Area Dance Community. It would be helpful if she dealt with her puzzles and brought more overtly clear works to her audience.

Other members of the company not already mentioned were Tara McArthur, Wiley Naman Strasser, Jeny Stulberg and Kenny Toll. Music for “Manifesto” was by Beth Wilmurt. For “Stay," the sound design was by Theodore J. H. Hulsker.
Hope Mohr Dance's Wiley Naman Strasser in 'Manifesting.'

Hope Mohr Dance's Wiley Naman Strasser in "Manifesting."

Photo © & courtesy of Margo Moritz


Hope Mohr Dance's Jane Selna and Patrick Barnes “Manifesting.”

Hope Mohr Dance's Jane Selna and Patrick Barnes “Manifesting.”

Photo © & courtesy of Andrew Weeks

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