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Flash Review 3, 8-18: 3, 2, 1 -- Contact!
Alt-Dance Fest Contains the Temporary

By Asimina Chremos
Copyright 2000 Asimina Chremos

CHICAGO -- Hello, Dance Insiders. I have a correction to my last flash (Flash Review, 8-16: Alt-Dance): I should have named Carolyn Stuart, NOT Cathy Caraker, as performing in the Group Contact Improvisation. Sorry, Carolyn's name was not mentioned in the program. Got back to Chi from Seattle on a red-eye yesterday morning. I'm still feeling sleepless (ha ha!) and overwhelmed by the intensity of my experience at the Seattle Festival of Alternative Dance and Improvisation.

The organizers, Heidi Drucker, Julie Freyberg, Margit Galanter, Lila Hurwitz, River Morgan, and Carol Wiley have done an amazing job of creating a container to hold the rich and multiplicitous energies of a temporary community dedicated to newer forms of dance. At the closing circle, I became aware that students had traveled from all over the U.S. and as far as Australia and Hong Kong. I am now a true believer in the SFADI! I plan to return again next year.

So, I left off last time without being able to report on the later performance of the Faculty Concert, which I forgot to mention last time is titled "Off the Cuff." This show opened with "3rd Time Through," a wild and wonderful solo performance by the ebullient Kim Epifano. She toyed with images of the gypsy and the hobo, her program notes stating, "This piece created itself from being on the road for a year." Epifano is a former member of Contraband -- a wonderful San Francisco-based company headed by Sarah Shelton Mann. It seems all the artists who have worked with Mann have a similar confidence and grounded but soaring energy in their work. Also reminding me of the old Contraband stuff, Kim is equally at home singing, playing the accordion, dancing, and talking to us. And she does all these things beautifully in the service of her message, her piece about traveling and not being home and the thrills and emptinesses.

Kathleen Hermesdorf, who taught Motion Technique at the SFADI, is also an S.F.- based former Contrabander, and in fact told me she will be touring again in a new work of Mann's soon. I don't know the details and I don't know exactly the status of Contraband, but I do know that Mann is an incredible mentor of artists and an amazing artist herself. I was pleased to hear that she received a Guggenheim recently. Yay!!! Hermesdorf didn't perform in the faculty concert, but she sure does dance up a storm in her classes, offering her students her body of information in quicksilver, weighty dance phrases full of inversion, large forms, and gesture.

So back to the concert. Second on the programme was Zaum by VIA, a group comprised of SFADI faculty member and Seattlite Tonya Lockyer (who "facilitated"), Margo Ende, Holly Hadfield, Ariana Lewis, Sean Ryan, and Robert Henson on prepared piano. This piece totally rocked!!! Dressed in various red and black clothing, in not-too-bright-light, these incredible dancers wiggled, hissed, flowed, stood, lounged, swooshed, murmured, and seethed on the stage, entering and exiting, sort of Edward Gorey meets minimalist Goth. Henson provided the most delicate of scrapings, twangings, and notes. At one point Lockyer exploded silently onto the stage with a fearful slashing, high-speed melting, and spiraling that is really beyond description. It took my breath away. When later I saw Lockyer or one of the other dancers to tell them how much I loved their piece, they seemed grateful but bewildered, like they weren't quite sure what they'd done and how it had turned out. But it was awesome!

Many students, including myself, were looking forward to seeing Berlin-based Manuela Fischer's performance. We had taken her impressively simple and clear workshop that afternoon, a study in spiraling, and performing on a grid in group improvisations. I found her teaching style to be very calm and almost removed, transparent, empty. Her piece Patches of Water, a duet with Mark Lynd, could be described the same way. During the break between pieces, two white paper X's were taped to the floor. Water drippy sounds came through the speakers, credited to Polar Sequences by Biosphere.

Fischer and Lynd, dressed in white, began standing in front of the stage left cross. Lynd stood behind Fischer, who gazed impassively and translucently into the audience. They began a slow moving -- touching but not exactly contact improvisation -- duet where Lynd picked up Fischer in a bear hug, her limbs dangling, with that same open, expressionless expression in her round, clear, open eyes. After a blackout, the two appeared separated, each on a cross, moving with glacial slowness. As the lights dimmed slowly at the end, I was surprised to see, even though I'd been looking, that Lynd had torn his cross and the pristine cross was now crumpled and ruined around him. This work did not impress me much at the moment of happening, but as I write about it now it seems full of meaning, loss, and delicacy.

The evening closed with another Group Contact Improvisation, with the same cast as the 7pm show -- Epifano, Nancy Stark Smith, Carolyn Stuart, and Andrew Marcus. So often I have bitched and moaned with other folks about how lousy contact improvisation is as a performance form, and how it's not really about that, etc, but the SFADI faculty did a good job of changing my mind on this. Watching the constantly shiting relationships, tracking the awareness of the performers, following the falls, drops, lifts, jumps, crumples of individuals, duets, trios, or the whole quartet was exciting, like watching a sporting event. This speaks to the high level of experience of the dancers, but it also speaks to the inherent drama and form in Contact.

Long live the SFADI!

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