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Margaret Jenkins Dance Company

'Other Suns'

by Becca Hirschman

December 8, 2007 -- Project Artaud Theater, San Francisco, California

Inspired by her time in spent in Asia, Margaret Jenkins premiered the first part of "Other Suns," which is set to be a trilogy examining symmetry and asymmetry. Prior to the event, my mind flashed back to my days of geometry and proofs. Would there be isosceles triangles? Perhaps an investigation of parallel vs. perpendicular lines? No, of course not. But there was proof that Jenkins' work is well grounded and that there is still quite more to come.

The 40-minute long evening, set in Project Artaud's spacious theater, began with warm bulb lights shining brightly behind the seven strong dancers: Joseph Copley, Kelly Del Rosario, Melanie Elms, Steffany Ferroni, Matthew Holland, Deborah Miller, and Ryan Smith. With great care and subtle strength, Elms initially drew us in with her deliberate movements and graceful presence. Circling around with a controlled breath, pausing ever so slightly, moving me to sit precariously at the edge of my set waiting for what comes next, she flowed through space with increasing awareness. Hip bumping the dancers as if she was the end piece of a Newton's cradle, she gently swayed them into motion. As the work progressed, they moved similarly, at times in synch and others not, but the continuum traveled ahead, pulling dancers forward and back, up high into the hung lights and rolling down upon the earth.

There was always, though, a return back to the center, whether it was a dancer's own personal center or that of the space. Similar to a planet or group of planets circling around a sun and the sun's gravity in holding the planets' in their orbits, the dancers' focus remained in the present, even when it seemed like their bodies were forever jutting quickly in infinite directions through space. The dancers ended with a sense of relief, contentment and solitude, complemented by the final drips of water off of a platform (designed by the always inspirational Alexander V. Nichols) raised high above the dancers. The music, recordings of Paul Dresher's "Channels Passing" and Bun-Ching Lam's "Like Water," provided moments of lift and contemplation, easily complementing Jenkins' choreography without being overpowering or distracting.

I'm curious to see what follows, which will be a collaboration with Guangdong Modern Dance Company of China scheduled for debut in 2009. Will Jenkins' subsequent sections build upon the first or incorporate parallels in other movement and dance universes? Or maybe not every sun has such a sunny side as this one.

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