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Review, 1-30: "Einstein's Daughters"
By Aimee Tsao
Copyright 2003 Aimee Tsao
SAN FRANCISCO -- I am
undoubtedly the "wrong" critic to have seen Kim Epifano's latest
dance theater production, "Einstein's Daughters" which was performed
at San Francisco's Cowell Theater the past two weekends (Jan 17-26).
As the daughter of a research scientist who became an avid amateur
painter and photographer and ran two art galleries after he retired
from academia, I grew up in both the scientific and artistic worlds
and continue to have an unabated passion for both. I still take
a daily dance class and have a shelf of books on physics, including
several by and about Einstein, as well as the love letters between
him and his first wife Mileva Maric.
by the life of Maric (maybe a better title would have been "Einstein's
Wife" or "Mileva's Daughter[s]), Epifano never quite manages to
pull the piece together, though there are many beautiful moments
and elements. In the program notes she writes: "...Sally Davis and
I were hiking...,talking about our lives as artists and the peculiar
kinds of intelligence this requires. Sally cracked a joke about
the two of us being a couple of geniuses, calling us 'Einstein's
daughters.' We laughed and I said, 'What a great title for a show!'
Then we wondered if Einstein ever had a daughter." Yes, it makes
a catchy title, great for marketing purposes, but it fails to be
more than that, especially since Epifano wanted to show how Maric
never fully realized her intellectual potential, and how she and
Einstein had a girl, Leiserl, out of wedlock, of whom no trace has
been found, though she is presumed to have been adopted. Epifano
writes of this child, "In a way she represents the infinite and
unknown possibility that is within each of us at birth."
Perhaps I am merely
disappointed by Epifano's unfulfilled intentions. Again, quoting
from the program notes, "Mileva Maric and Albert Einstein have taken
me on a journey during the past 18 months. Their passion for math
and science led me into textbooks, biographies, physics, history
-- and as I read, my appreciation for the depth of their genius
continued to grow. My own understanding also deepened -- of warp
and curvature, time, gravity, energy and light. My relationship
to space began to shift. I could see heat as a gesture, use light
as a character, model magnetism or gravity with motion. The connection
between creative and scientific imaginations began to resonate and
challenged me to examine my own potential as a thinker and artist."
Had Epifano been able to translate this understanding into actual
choreography, or at the very least, combine staging with text that
was more than cliches, I would have been satisfied beyond belief.
Unfortunately, I never felt she delved deeply enough into the themes
she supposedly set out to explore.
At times the piece seems
to be a showcase for Epifano's myriad of talents -- singing, accordion
playing, dancing, aerial work -- but without the narrative line
that insures each performance mode means something within the context
of everything else, unintentionally demonstrating Brownian motion
and/or chaos theory. I often wonder exactly what her role is supposed
to be as she never makes it clear, either through the structure
itself or her interpretation. On the other hand, I am very impressed
with the musicians/composers Kate Regan and Sally Davis, whose work
often overshadows the choreography, and Elaine Buckholtz's lighting
and video projection, which adds immeasurably to the piece.
Frederika Keefer, daughter
of Krissy, delivers a gutsy performance, despite only being eleven
years old, fearlessly flying around the stage both on the ground
and suspended in the air. (Recently in the middle of the flack about
not being accepted at the San Francisco Ballet School, Keefer should
consider herself lucky not training there. She can find better teachers
and a far greater variety of other movement skills elsewhere and
obviously proves it here.) The real revelation is Sri Louise, who
makes time slow down when she dances with a sensuality and precision
that are spellbinding. As Mileva, she brings meaning, in contrast
to the meandering. She shines in a solo and then a duet with Epifano
and finally in a section using a child's table and chair, she and
Keefer show her frustration and despair with domestic life and child
And as a throwaway,
I say, it's all relative. From some people's point of view "Einstein's
Daughters" is exciting and successful, and from others' frames of
reference, it hasn't caught up with itself.
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