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Bobbi Jene Smith's 'With Care' Leaves Little Impact

by Joanna G. Harris
November 2, 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
Conceived as a drama between two twinned characters, a caregiver and a wounded spirit, Bobbi Jene Smith's “With Care,” November 1-3 at San Francisco's ODC Theater brought to my eyes and ears and kinesthetic responses, much care and concern.

The musicians, Keir GoGwilt and Miranda Cuckson, violinists, were outstanding performers. They held the stage tension, interacted with the dancers and carried out their stage tasks with concentration and focus. The dancers, Bobbi Jene Smith and Meir Schreiber, although skilled in their Gaga tasks, were less interesting to this reviewer. Perhaps it was the episodic nature of the events, the shapes and tension of their duet, the randomness of Schreiber’s solo or the combination of all that left little impact. Schreiber’s spilling or dirt or sand on stage was a much overused action that distracted from his response to the then inert Smith.

Smith offered a Gaga class before the show. This "technique" originated with Ohad Naharin, the resident choreographer and former artistic director of Israel's Batsheva Dance Company and is now being taught in the Bay Area.

Most teachers direct a dancer to explore his/her own movement vocabulary and capabilities. Smith stood in the center and seemed to direct as if a game of "follow the leader.”

The twisting, circling, rolling movement that Smith used for her vocabulary, as well as for Schreiber’s, lacked a certain dynamic and direct impact. It also brought the focus down so that both dancers, whether looking out or not, seemed inwardly focused.

Meanwhile, the musical selection by Matthew Aucoin, played by GoGwilt and Cuckson, although sporadic in sound, projected to the audience through their playing and their various stage tasks (placing wood, building triangles, walking backwards).

As with many ‘new’ works seen in the last several years, “With Care” needs focus, overall visual organization and additional movement vocabulary to make its impact.

The work was co-commissioned by ODC Theater and American Modern Opera Company, and presented by ODC Theater under the auspices of the American Modern Opera Company.
Keir GoGwilt and Bobbi Jene Smith in 'With Care'.

Keir GoGwilt and Bobbi Jene Smith in "With Care".

Photo © & courtesy of Natalia Perez

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