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Dana Lawton Dances Delights at San Francisco International Festival

by Joanna G. Harris
May 23, 2016
Fort Mason Center for the Arts
38 Fort Mason
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 441-3400
Joanna G. Harris Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
Two dance groups appeared at Fort Mason’s Cowell Theater the weekend of May 20-22, 2016 as part of the San Francisco International Arts Festival. The Festival has been presenting local and international arts events for several years and continues to despite all the problems that beset the international community. Congratulations to Andrew Wood, Executive Director, who manages to keep the Festival running year after year.

This year’s dance talent included two local companies, CALI & CO, Christine Cali, Artistic Director, with Matt Longois/Matt EL, Music Director, and Dana Lawton Dances. Both groups included dancers who had been trained in the U.S. and abroad.

Lawton presented three works om May 22 to varied music selections. An outstanding solo, danced and costumed by Jerry Lin, entitled “Dream of the Cherry Blossom,” was beautifully performed. Lin has an elegant lyrical quality that wound and unwound across the stage in smooth long phrases that offered a satisfying opening number. The music for the work was by Japanese composer Keiko Abe.

Lawton's “Silence Of…,” to music by Bay Area composer Stephanie Webster, was a series of entrances and exits that played out like a family drama. Although there were excellent individual performances, the relationships and the interactive dramatic events did not emerge. The dancers used large blocks as stands to present their postures vis-à-vis one another, but the through-line of dramatic tensions did not clarify the conflicts or the resolution. Lawton and the company designed the very black costumes that gave it all a very dignified quality and sober tone.

Lawton's final work “Wax & Wire” to music by composer Viet Cuong was delightful. Lawton got the idea from a sculptor who wired wax dance figures, melted the wire and was left with the dance shape. In it the dancers wearing colorful unitards designed by Rogelio Lopez, moved in lively phrases of locomotion, lifts, falls and interaction. The vocabulary resonated with that of early modern dance and although well executed, it needed to be stretched.

The excellent company members were: Michael Armstrong, Leah Hendrix-Smith, Garth Grimball, Jerry Lin, John McConville, Colin McDowell, Robin Nasatir, Vera Swegler and Jennifer Smith.

Unfortunately, CALI & Co offered little to be commended. Although the group was enthusiastic and energetic, the dark lighting and unclear choreographic
intention made for confusion for this reviewer.

The music group, Matt Langlois/Matt El played before and during their work. The audience enjoyed the sound.
Dana Lawton Dances in Lawton's 'The Silence Of…'

Dana Lawton Dances in Lawton's "The Silence Of…"

Photo © & courtesy of Dana Lawton Dances

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