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Flash Flashback, 6-14: 'One Fell Swoop'
Wells Finds the Art in Skateboarding
By Jordan Winer
Copyright 2000 Jordan Winer
(The Dance Insider
has been revisiting its Flash
Archive. This article was first published on December 18, 2000. To read more about Scott Wells and other San Francisco artists in recent performance, click here.)
SAN FRANCISCO -- It sounds gimmicky at first, but ten minutes into Scott Wells's "One Fell Swoop," which closed this weekend at Theater Artaud, and it seems that the marriage of skateboards and contact improv-style dance is the most natural thing in the world. This show is filled with mean skateboard tricks done on a sweet set-up of four plywood ramps, two of them nicely connected by a staircase convenient for boardslides and grinds. And the skaters -- Angelo Lugo, Jymi Shores, Jesse Hotchkiss, and Cliff Dickinson -- take advantage of the sonorous plywood by tearing up and dropping in, and executing 180 disasters and an incredible boardslide-across-gap-to-drop-in.
The show blends real skating with the poetic dancing of Wells's group. Some of the pictures are arresting and beautiful: A man in a suit is caught in the middle of a blizzard of whirring and whizzing skaters. Then this man is alone, slowly facing the vertical faces of ply. A guy in a one-piece mechanic's suit enters and, with two skateboards acting as slow partners and catalysts, the two men fluidly move in, out and around each other, the boards becoming like islands in a stream that they jump on to and off of.
There is an especially stunning section where all five dancers -- just as skaters chillin' in the spot might challenge each other to top their tricks -- call each other out with harder and harder movement riffs, until four walk away in defeat, leaving a triumphant twisted man alone.
Wells stuns with simplicity. At one point, four skaters and one dancer simply skate circles around the audience, disappearing behind us in the lobby, then reappearing stage left, and disappearing again. In moments like this the connection is clear: Skateboarding, like dance, is simply bodies-moving-through-space. And in this simplicity, when all else is stripped away, the beauty is startling. The electricity in the audience was palpable, as these bodies orbited around and around and around us, rubber on wood, wheel bearings humming...humming.
"One Fell Swoop" does not try to bend skating into something it is not. It simply realizes that skateboarding is an art, and takes its cue from that. Bodies shoot up ramps and roll down, and two people colliding becomes sublime.
Jordan Winer is a writer, performer, director and teacher based in Berkeley.