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EmSpace Dance

'Keyhole Dances'

by Becca Hirschman

September 27, 2008 -- San Francisco, California

Saturday morning, I walked over to see the California Academy of Sciences’ opening, which felt like an environmentally friendly three-ring circus at 9:30 in the morning. I survived two hours before feeling overwhelmed with the tens (or hundreds ) of thousands of museum-going people wrapped down the music concourse and along JFK. Making my way home, I felt ready for a nap, but by mid-afternoon, I was glad I didn’t snooze; EmSpace’s “Keyhole Dances” made my weekend.

Erin Mei-Ling Stuart knows how to transform the mundane into something uniquely special, and her choreography and point of view continue to captivate her audience. “Keyhole Dances” is no different. Set inside a lovely flat situated where Western Addition and Alamo Square collide, guests are invited to peek in on rooms of individuals as they go about their lives. The location provides perspective as well as a cost-effective venue. No major fees and crews. She just needs to negotiate with the housemates.

Guests begin by walking through the apartment and peering in on the pre-show installations, all improvised to some extent. There’s a sensual yet somber tango in the living room, childlike twister down the hall (I was a mistress at spinning that dial), a drama queen contemplating suicide via bathroom window, and an orange fight in the TV room. Fast forward to a culmination in the living room with a tango featuring our main cast, wine glasses, and a potted tree (and on this afternoon, a fellow audience member who unknowingly joined them on the couch prior to “curtain”), and the rest of us assembled in chairs or leaned against a wall, almost like a giant house party with 25 of your newest friends.

With drinks in hand, we divided into groups to view three five-minute segments. Christine Bonansea and Thomas Boyles shifted through a nighttime ode (to an original composition sung by Boyles) to the little things that irk us about our mates. Down the hall in the bathroom, Bekah Barnett sang in the shower as Isabelle Sjahsam moved passionately around the sink and her mate Malinda Trimble, and into the polished clawfoot tub. With Scott Simón accompanying on his guitar in the pantry, our group ended the afternoon around the kitchen table where Blane Ashby and Julie Sheetz hosted us while in the middle of a lovers‘ quarrel. They glared at each other with pure hatred and adoration swirling in their eyes, she fastidiously wiped his toast with her toes, and he giddily dumped an entire bowl of sugar into her coffee; these two turned little everyday gestures into a fast-paced, introspective amusement park ride. If I could, I’d go around again.

Stuart may have hit the nail on the head with this one, providing a fresh way to look at relationships and ourselves. And while I wouldn’t want a bunch of people looking in on my daily activities, if they ever did, I’d hope I’d be under Stuart‘s masterful direction. And could I have a percussionist in my closet, please?


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