Mark Foehringer Dance Project, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
“String Quartet”, “Nuages”, “The Lark”, “The Four Seasons”
August 23, 2002
The sturdy Mark Foehringer Dance Company offered a home season of mixed works at the Yerba Buena Center on Friday. Mixed is probably a good way to describe the program, which ranged in style, as well as in presentation and execution.
The program opened with the world premiere “String Quartet”, set to the music of Sergei Prokofiev and performed live by the Conservatory of Music String Quartet. Despite some nice moments from the individual dancers, the piece didn’t quite hang together. Perhaps the dancers needed more time rehearsing with the musicians (as is often the case) because even those performers who are reliably musical, such as the elegant Holly Morrow, or Ballet San Jose’s Ramon Moreno, appeared a little lost.
Choreographically speaking, Foehringer puts together complicated phrases and canons which, though not necessarily fresh, are pleasant. Among the eight dancers, however, there seemed to be a range of technical levels, and so the crisp cleanliness that would have given the piece a much more finished look was somehow lacking. Several of the women looked ill-at-ease to be on pointe (this was the only piece of the evening on pointe) making me wonder if their insecurity might not be blamed on a slippery stage. Nevertheless, it created a kind of strained impression throughout the first movement, almost as if the dancers were holding their breath. Difficult steps, such as a peculiar turn in attitude front, in plié, on pointe, looked even more difficult from lack of ease. Then too, no one seemed to have decided what was going on, what the piece was about. Relationships would appear as though they were beginning to emerge between two dancers and then would evaporate.
Certain images however, were striking, and the extended pas de deux danced by Bethania Gomes and Moreno offered a satisfying security, even in the midst of intricate partnering. Moreno, who is Cuban born, shows a classical training that translated into exactness and assurance along with an easy demeanor.
Even so, “Nuages”, which came second on the program was somewhat of a relief. A brief meditation, set to a nocturne by Claude Debussy “Nuages” was enhanced by a simple, but effective use of video projection on the cyc of lazily drifting clouds. The sheer scale of the projection behind the three dancers, Luana Hidalgo, Morrow and Carlo Sierras, not only gave them the appearance of bodies in space, but also filled spaces in the movement and offered them something to play against dynamically. Then too, Foehringer’s choreography got a fuller treatment here from the trio of dancers, who looked to be happy to have soft shoes on.
Graciela Acedo and Moreno danced a pas de deux called “The Lark” to the music of Glinka, to close the first half. Moreno again displayed refinement and purpose of movement, but ultimately there were no sparks between him and Acedo, who seemed perhaps too wrapped up in her own thoughts to communicate with the audience or her partner. The result was that the difficult choreography oftentimes seemed like words in a vocabulary test, rather than danced phrases or sentences.
There was a change of mood after the intermission with Foehringer’s “The Four Seasons”, set to the Antonio Vivaldi work of the same title. Anyone fearing that we might descend into an evening of earnest and yet ultimately depressing, heavy-deep-and-real offerings was delightfully surprised by the lighthearted turn.
Although the concept is perhaps not entirely new, (each section portrays an appropriately seasonal vignette) a refreshing closer, is a refreshing closer and always welcome. Certainly when a piece lifts the moods of the dancers and begs the audience to be drawn into their world, it can be called a success.
There was a not so promising beginning of home-movie projections and a pregnant woman crossing the stage, however, the “Spring” section quickly became a coy burlesque of insects and flowers with hints of Anna Pavlova’s “California Poppy” and Bumblebee tuna ads. Foehringer’s choreography here was totally different from the foregoing works, but also in its own way delightful, and the musicality that had been a touch mushy in the first pieces improved a great deal in the last. The dancers worked hard to get the right effects, and having achieved these, seemed to be relaxed enough to enjoy the performance.
The “Summer” beach and “Fall” picnic and “Winter” in the old folks home scenes were entertaining, despite overlong pauses as the dancers no doubt wrestled with costume changes, but the highlight was the final look at Ramon Moreno’s dancing in the closing solo of the piece. With work like that in his company, Mark Foehringer Dance Project will always be welcome.