KUNST-STOFF Arts/Fest 2010
by Catherine Pawlick
June 26-27 and July 3-4, 2010 -- KUNST-STOFF Arts Studios
A cozy brick-lined loft space in the heart of downtown San Francisco is now home to Yannis Adoniou’s company, KUNST-STOFF, an eclectic group of dancers, media artists and choreographers from all around the world. KUNST-STOFF’s four weekends of dance, beginning June 26th, feature four different programs that explore philosophical and social themes through various forms of music and movement.
On June 27th, Mary Carbonara’s “Morphology of Rain” opened the program. Two female dancers, Kerry Demme and Laura Sharp, danced to music by John Adams and Philip Glass. Gazing into the distance, and pulling invisible threads through the air, the two dancers’ focus was intense but abstract, filled with emotion and impulse, their hectic energy morphing into a still calm and back again.
While many of the evening’s performers are local, there is an international element to the programs as well. Prumsodun Ok, a compact Cambodian man whose combination of Cambodian/Thai sound and ethnic dance provided the foundation for the second work on the program, “Love Me Rachana,” showed us a minimalist interpretation of the Cambodian drama Roeung Preah Sang that depicts interracial love. Made up with lipstick, mascara, and long gold earrings, Ok’s hyper-extended fingers portrayed authentic Southeast Asian ethnic dancing in his role as the young princess in love with a societal outcast. That man, performed by Macklin Kowal, sat quietly on a bench, throwing his head side to side until the close of the piece, in which the couple nuzzled each other as the lights faded.
“Verbatim,” by Janine Trinidad, featured dancer Maja Ruznic in a unique audience-participation work. With a roll of garbage in the center of the room, Ruznic rolled, twisted and turned on the floor, before donning a pair of high heels and calling forth an unsuspecting viewer. She silently demonstrated that he should smile, hold her hand, and pose for the invisible camera, to laughs from the audience. The piece ended with her lugging the bag of garbage out of the room.
Some of the participants in this company have come from as far as Berlin, which was the case with Helena Polcikova --a classically-trained dancer well versed in Graham and even singing techniques—who performed in the final piece of the evening. “Bionic Desires of the forgotten ‘U’,” by Yannis Adinou, takes the theme of internal and external understanding, what is seen in the mirror and through the mirror, and warps it into circus-like intrigue. Four dancers – Polcikova, Daiane Lopes Da Silva, Daniel Howerton and Alexandra Cunningham—dressed in funky wigs, normal clothes, bare feet, and plastic funhouse masks dance, wiggle, and prance throughout the now-scattered audience (we were asked to move our benches and chairs throughout the room before this piece began). They alternately run up to four separate mirrors and gaze through the glass back into the audience, or dance in front of and among the seated viewers. At the end Polcikova pulls out a microphone and sings a French cabaret song, before the four dancers collapse in a heap at her feet. The combination of startling costumes, unexpected movement patterns and a nontraditional performance structure combine for a puzzling, but intriguing experience. In all of these works, the abstract themes leave much to the imagination as the mind attempts to form structure out of diverse concepts and moods.
On July 3, the second program offered a different set of dishes. Projected on the wall, the words: “To die is different from what anyone supposed, and luckier” open the excerpt from “The Dark Season,” a dramatic interpretation of Macbeth, heavy on speech, but with bits of movement sprinkled throughout. This display of acting talent was led by visiting Italian actress Silvia Girardi and actor Paul Baird as Lord and Lady Macbeth; Carole Acuna, Beatrice Basso and Alison Sasha Ross were the three conniving witches. Heavily projected voices in the small studio space underlined the emotional framework of the characters. The full version of the work will be performed at the SF Fringe Festival beginning September 11.
Marina Fukushima’s playful “If Trees Had Legs,” combined music from Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” and Devotchka’s “How It Ends” in a smooth, lyrical dance featuring three dancers. Performed to the background of a recorded monologue by Helena Polcikova, the concept of mobile trees begins whimsically, with a pile of red beads on the floor. Daniel Howerton sets his foot in the middle of the circle of beads; Polcikova reclines, her foot in the circle too, but her arms floating heavenward. Each image is framed by bright light fading back to darkness, a snapshot in time. Then, along with Chin-Chin Hsu, the three dancers intertwine and separate – perhaps like tree branches; they repeat each other’s movement in cannon, or dance their own themes alone. The two girls hold Howerton horizontally overhead, as he walks along the brick wall, and finish by picking up single red beads, threading them through the air in curling swivels of arm. Fukushima’s choreography is soft, connected and cohesive. The beauty of her dream-like theme and supple form lent substance to this fanciful work.
The final piece in the second program, “Water and Bread” by Chin-Chin Hsu, explores the theme of today’s hectic lives against the backdrop of basic necessities. After rubbing the rim of a glass of water until it hums, Hsu begins the piece in a flesh-toned two-piece leotard. Brushing her teeth at lightning speed, putting on lipstick in a race against the clock, and struggling with her clothing, she sets the frantic pace of life. Joined by Jenna Wozer, both women in tan business overcoats dance about the stage, tinged with echoes of Bollywood-type movement. Joined by Daniel Howerton in suit and tie with a long French baguette in tow-- who later removes his clothing and turns the bread into machine gun, baseball bat, back scratcher and girlfriend-- we realize that the layers of necessity – speed, money, business papers, corporate jobs – are simply distraction from our most basic needs. Such is just one interpretation of the work, but Hsu’s choreography invites diverse understandings.
Kunst-stoff’s summer festival continues the next two weekends. A combination of music, voice, acting, and dancing, this unique troupe offers is something for every artistic taste.