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Jess Curtis/GRAVITY

'Touched: Symptoms of Being Human'

Touched but not quite touché

by Rebecca Hirschman

June 2, 2005 -- Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

Using modern dance, theater, acrobatics, and live music, Jess Curtis/GRAVITY’s "Touched: Symptoms of Being Human" explores the literal, cultural, personal, and political ramifications of contact between individuals and among people. Jess Curtis founded his company, Jess Curtis/GRAVITY, in 2000 “as a research and development vehicle for very live performance.” San Franciscans were treated to the company’s newest work at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts with the world premiere of GRAVITY’s "Touched" which was presented in the Forum as part of the San Francisco International Arts Festival.

Staged in an in-the-round setting with overhead lighting, the atmosphere immediately felt intimate and personal. With a swirl of clothespins protected behind a museum-type “Please do not touch” sign, I felt like I was viewing an exhibit and not about to watch a performance piece. The seven performers included Curtis, Ulrike Bodammer, Mattias Herrmann, Lea Martini, Maria Francesca Scaroni, Mark Stuver, and Andrew Wass, and Curtis played each of them to his/her strength. Live music is always a treat, and Herrmann, composer and musician, incorporated multiple instruments while using electronic samples of his work to create an eclectic score. Bodammer, who specialized in partner acrobatics at the L’Ecole Supérieur des Arts du Cirque in Brussels, created inventive lifts with the other dancers, and her use of levels and space added an element of surprise and wonder to Curtis’ choreography. Curtis also employed nudity and bareness to good effect; the naked body was not an erotic element, but an additional boundary of being human. Also, the use of text added humor and dimension to the theme.

After awhile, though, the work dragged. Perhaps it had to do with the length of the work (1 hour and 15 minutes or so without an intermission), and the fact that all of the performers remained onstage for its entirety. There were also times when I felt the same concept was being rehashed over and over and over and over and over again to the point where I lost interest. Lastly, there was no final hurrah, which perhaps was my own expectation’s fault. But with a work of this length and exploring such a magnitude of emotions, I hoped that Curtis would have incorporated some semblance of resolution that would have somehow said “Ta-da” in the closing moments.

"Touched" definitely has its high points, including incredibly talented performers and a well-intended focus. Curtis’ choreography dares to investigate how we control contact with the world around us while exploring the sensory elements of the humanity of touch. Yet while Curtis achieved some hits, he also weathered a few misses that kept "Touched" from reaching its potential.

Edited by Staff.

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