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 Post subject: Jess Curtis - Gravity Physical Entertainment
PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2001 4:33 pm 
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Lucky San Franciscans to have Jess Curtis in residence at the ODC Theatre:

Quote:
Show him the money

Rachel Howard, SF Examiner

The last time Jess Curtis was in San Francisco, back in November, he and fellow S.F. natives Keith Henessey and Jules Beckman performed to madly applauding sold-out houses at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater with the French troupe Cirque Bâtard.


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Last edited by Azlan on Sat Jun 04, 2005 11:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Jess Curtis - Gravity Physical Entertainment
PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2002 9:31 am 
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A preview of Mr. Curtis' upcoming performances at the ODC Performance Gallery. This should be good. He puts on a good show.

Quote:
Into Thin Air
Exploring gravity, before and after the fall

BY ANN MURPHY

In Jess Curtis' upcoming Fallen, you won't find an ankle-deep sea of office paper and fake body parts onstage. You also won't see any imploding buildings projected onto the backdrop, nor does the choreographer use film clips of people running from disaster in horror. That's because Fallen is not about Sept. 11 -- not explicitly, anyway.


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 Post subject: Re: Jess Curtis - Gravity Physical Entertainment
PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2002 10:07 am 
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And the review:

Quote:
Into Thin Air
Exploring gravity, before and after the fall


ANN MURPHY, SF Weekly

In Jess Curtis' upcoming Fallen, you won't find an ankle-deep sea of office paper and fake body parts onstage. You also won't see any imploding buildings projected onto the backdrop, nor does the choreographer use film clips of people running from disaster in horror. That's because Fallen is not about Sept. 11 -- not explicitly, anyway.


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Last edited by Azlan on Sat Jun 04, 2005 11:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Jess Curtis - Gravity Physical Entertainment
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2002 7:12 am 
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Location: Where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars
“Fallen,” by Jess Curtis/Gravity Physical Entertainment and fabrikCompanie.
ODC Theater, San Francisco, February 7-16, 2002

By Toba Singer

Let’s say that living is the struggle to achieve equilibrium, comprehending that living things never do, because the earth, air and water in which they thrive are in constant motion. Let’s say that rather than achieving it, all living things either approach or recede from equilibrium. Given that assumption, the word “fallen,” as a synonym for the word “death,” is a perfect match. After all, what has fallen has achieved equilibrium. Equilibrium is found in death—animas at rest. Gravitas, gravity, grave: If you could decline nouns in English, those three words could define the boundaries of the piece, “Fallen,” a truthful exploration of the conundrum that sends us from whence to thence. Five performers, U.S. and German, make up this compactly powerful and sentient company.

The curtainless theater is set with five, approximately 4 x 5-foot, beveled, horizontal and vertical aluminum picture frames, suspended at eye level. Centered in one frame is the musician/composer, Matthias Hermann, who plays incidental music on a cello before the piece opens. On the floor are several chalk-rendered human body silhouettes. It looks as if multiple murders might be under investigation. So, it takes us by surprise when the voiceover relates a story about the curious and precarious mating habits of certain eagles. In the story, they mate in mid-air, and their chicks are born when the eggs that contain them fall toward earth, and crack from the heat of the sun. The hatched, falling chicks are then lifted by a breeze, so that the neonates may commence to fly with an assist from nature. Eggs ready to hatch on that random day when there is neither sun, nor wind, complete their life cycle without ever really starting it, approaching and realizing equilibrium all in one frightful moment.

In a series of isolations done lying down, a limb falls, then a head, and a torso. The dancers assume the postures of birds, poised to fly, splayed on the ground, or preying on other life forms. They lay down in the chalk drawings. They peck at the ground beneath them, and their dusty nest is fractiously stirred as the music screeches. A man’s serpentine, raptor-like hand throws itself beyond his body. He is led into random motion by the hand. Bodies are led by their heads, or a pair of shoulders pulled into gyrations, by resisting or committing to gravity. A woman dancer preens, as the cellist plays over synthesized music. The resulting sound is of someone trying to stop a record with a hand, in the way that we might vainly hope to use a foot as a brake against a motor force far greater than we are willing to admit could be moving us toward death.

A woman stands behind a man and, like a shrouded puppeteer, manipulates him around the stage. She wields him like an Uzi. They exchange weight in a series of lifts, and move into spirals that end in loose penchés. Then he launches her, and she recoils, goes limp, and dies. Soon a couple is seated at a table in one of the frames. He steals a look. She offers a hand. He drops an egg into the hand. They shift positions and levels and this time, the female drops the egg. He catches it. They move around the table and around the frame. It is both a protoplasmic and terrifying game of Chicken. She extends a waiting hand, slightly outside the frame. He ups the ante by mounting the table, and threatens to drop the egg from “high and outside” the frame. She changes her mind, shrugging her shoulders at his escalation of the hostilities, moving out of the frame and away from the game. The voiceover tells us that fear becomes excitement, and as flight hastens, fear is lost. The bodies seem to take on the feedback of the sound gone awry. Feathers drop from above. Trains are heard, with other transport sounds.

In a solo, Sabine Chwalisz, becomes flamingo-like, poised in profile, arms lifted. Her movements assume the language of a djing, djing, djing percussion. A dancer/aerialist descends a rope. The stage is a full-fledged urban nest. Two of its male fledglings take possession of a table, where they chart their moves, angling the table, and then moving it out of its frame to center stage. There, they hoist it in the air, and spirit it around the stage. They drop its top in front of them like a child’s snowball fort, from which they play-shoot at the audience in gleeful camaraderie, enhanced by calliope music that seems to come from a far-off carousel. The fort is now a proscenium, and they now carouse in a Punch and Judy act. They shift into a gentle, four-handed finger play, with a lyrical choreography of its own.

The voiceover announces a “note to self.” It says, “Don’t worry about being important. Take revenge on meaning. Communicate to be misunderstood.” This instruction to turn everything on its head is further elaborated by a headstand. The dancers then break out into a boogie-woogie duet, with generous heaps of jazz slides, creating a virtual Birdland of revenge. Confetti pops out of the ceiling, as the music brazens through a bad connection, all scritchy-scratchy, moving us into a cacophony of a louder, more chaotic, more dissonant crescendo. Don’t expect the diminuendo to offer much in the way of succor.

A male dancer courts an approachable-seeming female. She blocks to defend; he leans in, not believing her. She leans in, believing in him. The voiceover asks itself about the term “falling in love.” Do we fall because love is dizzying? Do we surrender to a greater force? We land on our own two feet when it’s over, just a little injured, knowing that we must find a new way or die. Gravity renders life fragile. Some die, but the resilient don’t. Survivors molt their brush with death, and go on.

The final tableau makes frank use of the upstage brick wall at ODC. A rope descends with a man hanging upside down, as if he might have jumped. Another man is suspended, one foot perpendicular to the wall. The voiceover candidly admits to examining the detail of the photos of those who jumped from the windows of World Trade Center. Now, at the end, we understand that the set leads a double life. If the brick wall represents the towers’ edifice, the frames now appear to be their windows. “How would I feel?” the voice asks, if I had made the choice to flee the flames and jump. Until September 11, we had believed that the only choice was between fire and ice. The voice recalls that in one instance, a descending man’s hands remained folded serenely across his stomach, making it seem as though he were in prayer. In another, a portly woman’s billowing skirts made her look absurd. Again the voice: this time, inside of us: How would I feel?

While work on “Fallen” was begun before September 11, it was completed in its aftermath. Though not intended by Curtis as a political statement, for me “Fallen” stands as the consummate rebuke to the politically-motivated false sentiment that formed a second skin around the WTC event, immortalizing a piece of commercial real estate, idealizing cops, counterfeiting patriotism, marshalling any pre-existing, irrational worry into the official column of institutionalized fear, and confecting the mantle of victimhood into a fashion statement—all in the service of preparing to bomb Afghanistan.

On viewing Curtis’ work, I feel instantly free. It is as if I am no longer the hostage of a pack of propaganda thugs. Clearly, Curtis’ intention is far leaner than what I may impute to his work, but the feeling of release is no less palpable for that fact. Were there a Palme d’Or equivalent for choreography, Jess Curtis’ “Fallen” would get my vote for this year’s winner.

As the piece ends, an English horn adds ceremony to the denouement, leaving only that single question, “How would I feel?” still hanging in the air.


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 Post subject: Re: Jess Curtis - Gravity Physical Entertainment
PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2002 10:22 am 
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From the SF Chronicle. I'm not sure why they sent this critic, since he never really gets modern dance as an art form.

Quote:
Score elevates eclectic 'Fallen'

Octavio Roca, Chronicle Dance Critic Tuesday, February 12, 2002

The key to "Fallen," a dance by Jess Curtis and Gravity Physical Entertainment onstage Thursday through Saturday at ODC Theater, comes in the disembodied narration near the end. "Try to give up the desire to have an impact," says the affectless, untrained actor's voice. "See if anyone notices."


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 Post subject: Re: Jess Curtis - Gravity Physical Entertainment
PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2002 9:40 pm 
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Bound by gravity

Quote:
Rachel Howard, SF Examiner

Everyone keeps crashing to the ground in the aptly-titled "fallen." Maybe it's because the hourlong piece of dance theater, which continues this weekend at ODC Theater, carries a lot of dead weight.

The choreographer, Jess Curtis, is a fixture on the San Francisco modern dance scene, well-admired for his heady collaborations with Keith Henessey and Jules Beckman.


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Last edited by Azlan on Sat Jun 04, 2005 11:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Jess Curtis - Gravity Physical Entertainment
PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2002 10:34 am 
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From the Guardian. (I love it when we get all the reviews back to back for comparison.)

Quote:
Sublime is a movement miracle.

By Sima Belmar

Fallen

Fallen is bursting at the seams with innovative movement ideas, gorgeous visual design (by Curtis, with Marco Wehrspann), and existential musings.


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 Post subject: Re: Jess Curtis - Gravity Physical Entertainment
PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2002 8:43 am 
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Location: SF Bay Area
Quote:
Sublime is a movement miracle.

Sima Belmar, SF Bay Guardian

Fallen

JESS CURTIS FOUNDED Gravity Physical Entertainment in 2000 as a "research and development vehicle for very live performance." And though I'm advised by my writing style manual to use "very" sparingly, Curtis's Fallen, which had its North American premiere at ODC Theater Feb. 7, is very much alive.


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Last edited by Azlan on Sat Jun 04, 2005 11:33 am, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Jess Curtis - Gravity Physical Entertainment
PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2002 12:00 pm 
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Location: San Francisco, CA, US
fallen
ODC Theater
Friday, February 8,2002
by Karen Hildebrand

Jess Curtis began to create “fallen” long before September 11. With a February date set for the premiere of the completed work, he previewed an excerpt at ODC Theater in August, exactly a month before the terrorist attacks. Then, in one of life’s more disquieting turns of fate, the destruction of the World Trade Center handed Curtis an unexpected climax for his piece. What began as an esoteric exploration of the mundane and metaphoric effects of gravity, has now gained a greater purpose. Beyond falling asleep, falling in love, and falling from grace, “fallen” is a work of transcendence, helping us heal from a shared tragedy.

The stage is set with four giant empty picture frames and five chalked body silhouettes on the floor. Behind one frame is musician Matthias Herrman on cello with a stack of sound equipment at his side. Herrman’s score is at times both melodic and grating. As if stepping into a hot bath, four dancers (two men and two women) gingerly adjust their bodies to fit inside the chalked lines. Laying face down on the floor, one dancer raises an arm and a shoulder, then lets them drop back to the floor with a slap. Another dancer does the same with a leg and foot. Others follow suit, and the repetition quickens until the prone dancers become kernels of corn popping in reverse. The chalk puffs into the air with each impact, clinging to the women’s black slip dresses, the mens’ gray suit coats and the backs of their heads, hearkening images of dust-enshrouded pedestrians fleeing lower Manhattan.

In a voice-over, Curtis tells a story of birds that never touch the ground. Their progeny must catch an updraft and the correct angle of the sun in order to hatch mid-air. The alternative is to smash to the ground unborn.

A couple seated across a table takes turns dropping an egg into the other’s outstretched hand from ever-increasing heights. In a later scene, two people deliberately remove the safety of their palms and let the eggs crash to the ground. In one vignette, the table is turned on its side becoming a shadow box for a finger puppet show conducted by two men whose index and middle fingers become birds. One set of fingers plucks an imaginary feather from the other. Another set becomes the feather as it floats to the ground. It’s a wonderful subtle element that would be lost in a larger venue.

At just over an hour in length, “fallen” is dance-theater performed by Gravity Physical Entertainment founded by Curtis who now splits his residence between Germany and San Francisco. Curtis was once a member of San Francisco’s Contraband, and his long time collaboration with Jules Beckman and Keith Hennessey resulted in “Ice/Car/Cage” that won the trio an Isadora Duncan performance award in 1997-98. As members of the French company, Cahin-Caha, their zany and absurd Cirque Bataard had a month long run in 2000 at the Yerba Buena Center.

Of the three performers, Curtis has taken the most dancerly route with his work. He blends the fresh wildness of the San Francisco contact improvisation scene with the more controlled release technique of Jose Limon. In his fluid choreography of low leaps and wide-thrust arms we can see the modern dance legacy of Doris Humphrey, Limon and the early perpetrator of German dance-theater, Kurt Joos.

In one of the most compelling dance segments of “fallen,” a trio of men in gray business suits leaps in unison and executes a series of complex lifts. In a solo, Curtis becomes a baby bird learning to fly. His suit jacket flaps in a frenzy of false starts, failed take-offs and fluttering crashes. His arms become wings, sprouted directly from his shoulder blades.

In the final scene, the nude figure of Sabine Chwalisz is inverted on the table-top. With her back to the audience and legs tucked in, her shape resembles yet another egg in Curtis’ recurring thread of metaphor. Behind one picture frame Curtis again descends down a dangling rope, while in the adjacent frame, Hoffman is harnessed from the rafters to scale the rear stage wall. Through the picture frame, we view only the top of his head. Curtis’ recorded voice tells of seeing bodies leaping from the burning towers, noting the way they chose death from gravity over death from fire. He describes a man falling backward, hands stretched upward as if supplicating to God. This shift to a narrative account of the actual event is chilling. Oddly powerful is a pair of women’s shoes that drop from overhead and thud onto the stage floor. Curtis flails upside-down from the rope and Hoffman loses his purchase and swings as if in free fall. The ghost of our mutual horror hovers close to the surface as Curtis plucks the thought from inside our heads and speaks it aloud: “What would I feel?”


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 Post subject: Re: Jess Curtis - Gravity Physical Entertainment
PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2002 2:56 pm 
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Wow, thanks for the descriptive impressions, Karen. There seems to be so much happening -- the props and the action must have seemed larger than life in the teeny theater. I wonder if this work would translate onto a larger venue.


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 Post subject: Re: Jess Curtis - Gravity Physical Entertainment
PostPosted: Fri Mar 01, 2002 2:42 pm 
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And a note on the critics, from the letters to the editor in the SF Chronicle's Datebook section:

Quote:
Octavio Roca's Feb. 12 review of Jess Curtis and Gravity Physical Entertainment's "Fallen" at ODC Theater ("Score elevates eclectic 'Fallen,' " Feb. 12) was the glib and lazy commentary of someone who entered the theater with his disgust well rehearsed. . . If Roca has no use for non-narrative work not based on classical technique (although there was much fine technique in evidence in "Fallen," just not ballet technique), he shouldn't review such performances.


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 Post subject: Jess Curtis - Gravity Physical Entertainment
PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2002 9:33 am 
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I totally agree with this letter. Roca has NO understanding of modern technique at all. The Chronicle would have done better to send their theater or music critic than Mr. Roca.

I was amused in another thread when a poster said Roca was the only good critic in town.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2005 11:22 am 
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A mixed review:

Quote:
'Touched' gets a move on, but Jess Curtis' commanding work could use more actual dancing, focus

Janice Berman, Special to The SF Chronicle

When there's a swirl of old-fashioned clothespins on the floor and not a clothesline in sight, that's a pretty good sign of what a piece like "Touched: The Symptoms of Being Human" is up to. more


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 Post subject: Touched but not quite touché
PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2005 11:09 am 
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I meant to post this a day or so ago, but our computer went kaput... Had to sneak into a nearby computer lab, all just for CD!

Touched but not quite touché

Jess Curtis/GRAVITY
Touched: Symptoms of Being Human
Presented by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
June 2, 2005
Reviewed by Becca Hirschman


Using modern dance, theater, acrobatics, and live music, Jess Curtis/GRAVITY’s Touched: Symptoms of Being Human explores the literal, cultural, personal, and political ramifications of contact between individuals and among people. Jess Curtis founded his company, Jess Curtis/GRAVITY, in 2000 “as a research and development vehicle for very live performance.” San Franciscans were treated to the company’s newest work at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts with the world premiere of GRAVITY’s Touched which was presented in the Forum as part of the San Francisco International Arts Festival.

Staged in an in-the-round setting with overhead lighting, the atmosphere immediately felt intimate and personal. With a swirl of clothespins protected behind a museum-type “Please do not touch” sign, I felt like I was viewing an exhibit and not about to watch a performance piece. The seven performers included Curtis, Ulrike Bodammer, Mattias Herrmann, Lea Martini, Maria Francesca Scaroni, Mark Stuver, and Andrew Wass, and Curtis played each of them to his/her strength. Live music is always a treat, and Herrmann, composer and musician, incorporated multiple instruments while using electronic samples of his work to create an eclectic score. Bodammer, who specialized in partner acrobatics at the L’Ecole Supérieur des Arts du Cirque in Brussels, created inventive lifts with the other dancers, and her use of levels and space added an element of surprise and wonder to Curtis’ choreography. Curtis also employed nudity and bareness to good effect; the naked body was not an erotic element, but an additional boundary of being human. Also, the use of text added humor and dimension to the theme.

After awhile, though, the work dragged. Perhaps it had to do with the length of the work (1 hour and 15 minutes or so without an intermission), and the fact that all of the performers remained onstage for its entirety. There were also times when I felt the same concept was being rehashed over and over and over and over and over again to the point where I lost interest. Lastly, there was no final hurrah, which perhaps was my expectation’s fault. But with a work of this length and exploring such a magnitude of emotions, I hoped that Curtis would have incorporated some semblance of resolution that would have somehow said “Ta-da” in the closing moments.

Touched definitely has its high points, including incredibly talented performers and a well-intended focus. Curtis’ choreography dares to investigate how we control contact with the world around us while exploring the sensory elements of the humanity of touch. Yet while Curtis achieved some hits, he also weathered a few misses that kept Touched from reaching its potential.

_________________
So two dancers walked into a barre...


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2005 7:05 am 
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Thank you for sneaking in the computer lab to get your review sent to us. It was well worth the risk :)


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