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Joanna G. Harris
Music and Dance Reviews
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Performance Reviews
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San Francisco Bay Area
San Francisco, CA

Charles Slender-White's latest production is to die for

by Joanna G. Harris
September 27, 2018
80 Turk Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 626-2060
Joanna G. Harris Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
“From extremely delicate to the wildly unhinged" is how artistic director/choreographer Charles Slender-White describes his production “Death.” Using a long series of carefully choreographed phrases, he and his company FACT/SF perform those phrases over and over, as soloists and as groups, repeating the lunges, twists, falls, fascinating technical steps and stillness.

Slender-White started the evening, September 27 at San Francisco's CounterPulse by collecting small lights that the audience had previously received. He then charges these and puts them in a large jar filled with water. As he does this, he recounts the death of his mother, which, one assumes, motivates this work. He cites that he regards the work as “collective mourning for performers and audience alike.” He then carries off a large plastic headless reconstruction of the human body.

Like the messenger in the Greek myth, "Charon," an usher appeared in the upper area of the theater where the audience was guided to view solo performances from each company member. The usher then using her flashlight, guided individual audience members from the theater to a showplace studio below where the program then continued. The usher made this journey 40 times. Her slow, careful pace and detailed organization was fascinating choreography.

The basic phrases, now repeated by the group, grew in dynamics, range and force.
There were episodes where the dancers sat in chairs, then fell forcibly to the ground.

At one point, Slender-White let out a deep throated scream. Finally, each company member carried in a plastic body form (as seen earlier), put a light inside it and placed in it a pile. After their exit, a curtain fell.

All the performers are to be congratulated on their skill, concentration and devotion to the detailed execution of each dance phrase and its timing. The music accompaniment by Radiohead, W.A. Mozart, Max Richter and others seemed not a factor in the performer's timing. They moved in unison with a great intuitive group sense.

At nearly 105 minute the program felt long. But then, death, we can presume, is sometimes long in coming.

The dancers are: Keanu Brady, Michaela Burns, Kegan Marling, Morganne Mazeika, Catherine Newman, LizAnne Roman Roberts, Isabel Rosenstock, Charles Slender-White and Amanda Whitehead. Lighting Design: Dari Andrew Packard & Del Medoff: Dramaturge: Seth Eisen: Set Design Catherine Newman and Charles Slender-White.

Charles Slender-White's program “Death” was an adventure well worth experiencing. It provokes contemplation and admiration. Bravo!
FACT/SF in Charles Slender-White's “Death.”

FACT/SF in Charles Slender-White's “Death.”

Photo © & courtesy of Gema Galina

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