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Liss Fain Dance's 'I Don't Know and Never Will,' Intriguing but Flawed

by Joanna G. Harris
March 4, 2018
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
Liss Fain Dance’s work for "I Don't Know and Never Will" at San Francisco's ODC Theater, March 1-3 was a collaborative effort with the dancers who “merged their voices with mine,” said Fain. She began the work by reading old letters and “re-experiencing the deeply personal contact that my friends and I created.” It was a truly sentimental journey for her. She found the vocabulary with her dancers. For the most part, that consisted of multiple embraces and highly emotional lifts and floor falls. The percussion music by John Glenn, Nava Dunkkelman and Jacob Felix Heute was beautifully played on selected instruments.

Nevertheless, with all good intentions and the participation of fine artists, the dynamics of the work did not fully come across to the audience.

The stage space was imaginatively constructed as a series of garden fences and live branches, brilliantly achieved by Matthew Antaky. The dancers moved around and through these, sometimes making contact with the real planting dirt on the ground.

A narrator, Val Sinkler, was always present on the set, telling the work's story in a low commanding voice that was mostly audible but not always clear.

The dancers, Sonja Dale, Megan Kurashige, Sharon Kurashige and Sara Dionee Woods-LaDue performed their remarkable capoeira like dance moves with ease but somehow without the excitement and energy that is intrinsic in the martial art/dance form. The Kurashige's were standouts in the work, although all performed with devotion and clarity.

Fain asked the audience to stand and move throughout the space. Most people, however, just stood still blocking those who were seated. Some audience members moved up into the house. This adventurous perspective was intriguing but often made the much used dancer floor movements difficult to see during the 90-minute production.

For this reviewer, the sentimental aspects of the work dominated both the movement and the words. Also, the dynamics in dance and music rarely varied making the work feel tedious at times. Watching Fain combing the dirt on the floor at the end of the piece did not bring any resolution to the experience. Fain came to “I Don’t Know and Never Will” with several good intentions, in the end however, few were realized. Mary Domenico does get credit for her handsome black costumes.
Sarah Woods-LaDue, left, and Sonja Dale in Liss Fain's 'I Don't Know and Never Will.'

Sarah Woods-LaDue, left, and Sonja Dale in Liss Fain's "I Don't Know and Never Will."

Photo © & courtesy of Stephen Texeira


Shannon Kurashige in Liss Fain's 'I Don't Know and Never Will.'

Shannon Kurashige in Liss Fain's "I Don't Know and Never Will."

Photo © & courtesy of Stephen Texeira

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