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West Wave Dance Festival

Uni-Form: Ballet

by Anne Berger

July 26, 2007 -- Project Artaud Theater, San Francisco, California

Viktor Kabaniaev’s writhing and mysterious “Fragments of…” and Christian Burns’ multimedia “Beneath Your Sheltering Hand” opened Westwave Dance Festival’s “Uni-Form: Ballet” series Thursday night at Project Artaud Theater. Although the series title caused some confusion as to the dance roots of the program – the five world premieres were inspired by post-modern and theatrical dance rather than ballet – the evening started and finished strong. Mark Foehringer’s well-received “In Fugue” closed the program on a jazzy, Broadway-influenced note. The middle of the program featuring Matt Lawrence’s “Rogue” and Les Stuck’s “Digression” was a bit cumbersome and rambling at points, but showcased some promising dancing by the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance students.

Solo dancer Irene Liu’s impressive flexibility and solid technique in “Fragments Of…” captivated the audience. Liu’s constant contact with the floor and demonstrative movements, coupled with Nicolas Van Krijdt’s music, truly conveyed the concept of one being confronted with the chaos of overwhelming urbanism. The music – created from an urban soundtrack of sirens and construction sounds – weighed down upon Liu, finally driving her to scream and beat her fist against an imaginary door. At times the post-modern influenced choreography appeared improvisational, in particular when Liu somersaulted across the stage.

“Beneath Your Sheltering Hand”, choreographed and performed by Christian Burns, played to the audience’s sense of the ridiculous. A robotic voice-over recited advertisements for nose hair trimmers and toothbrush sanitizers while island vacation imagery was projected on a video backdrop.  In the foreground, Burns executed staccato movement and capoeira-like dancing effortlessly. At one point in the piece, Burns channeled a Vanna White type character, showcasing furniture sets and model kitchens that appeared on the video screen. Bursts of laughter from the audience were silenced by Burns’ intense dramatic moments where he tried to pull himself upright, struggling and fighting, self conflicted and trapped.

“In Fugue,” with live accompaniment by Jack Perla and Sam Bass, performed almost like a Broadway show. Seven dancers in what appeared to be street clothes playfully engaged the audience with their gritty characterizations of urbanites. Jazz and tango inspired pas de deuxs were infused with dramatic poses and undulating segments. If the dancers broke into song by the climactic end of the piece, it would not have been surprising.

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