Sunday, October 19, 2008

Trolley Dances 2008 (2)

The Fifth Annual San Francisco Trolley Dances leapt, flew, hip-hopped, rolled, cartwheeled, back-flipped, sung and strummed into action yesterday all around the T-line near Mission Bay...see previous blog for first report...

As the tour started at Mission Creek, we were treated to a very original production by Scott Wells and Dancers, a company described aptly as being known for '"kamikaze", often humorous and well-crafted dances.'

It was different and had the audience laughing!

Young dancers leapt into each others arms, rolled, embraced, seemingly fought and romanced and made imaginative use of the space. They jumped and rolled over, climbed and balanced on, walls, railings and benches. One girl flew at three boys and sent them falling like dominoes and Sebastian pretended to nearly hurtle into the creek.

Set to continental-style music and performed smoothly and often with deliberation, and given the large size of the group, this unusual dance had the audience on their toes.

Durga, a young San Fran resident, said, 'It's very well done. It was very engaging.

"You couldn't even blink your eye because you didn't know what you're going to miss!'

As we then rode the train to our first stop at Bayview Hunters Point, this abstract piece of theatre made for interesting discussion. Did it have a theme? I asked Kyle, a helpful tour guide.

'I'm new to it myself!' he admitted.

We turned to Becky, a student from Sonoma State.

'I liked it. It was very different. You had to have a lot trust in your partners,' she began, referring to the catching.

But what do you think it meant? Kyle and I were looking at her hopefully.

'There was a bit of fighting. A bit of romance at the end. The first part they seemed to be meeting each other,' she said. 'Relational' was where she was going.

She was right!

At the end of the tour, I went back and met Sebastian, Kellye and Liz.

It shows a 'city in which people communicate through feelings and touch. As humans we're eye-dependant, so it shows what happens when you relate to people in other ways,' said Sebastian, adding for my interest that his father is British.

Liz said that it showed 'people in their more animal nature. It's taking down the barriers that people put up, more back to the core of what it is to be human rather than the things that 'come onto' us in a society.'

But as the earlier chat with Kyle and Becky ended, we were pulling up at Bayview Hunter's Point, where nearly 100 of us disgorged onto the mid-street platform. Across the road we were surprised with black soul group The Seastrunk Brothers, who had us clapping and bopping to the Motown song 'Love Train' as they led us along the sidewalk and into the Bayview Opera House.

After a second popular song, they gave way to Zaccho Dance Theatre whose troupe sprung into a high-energy show with a theatrical interlude that presented the ethos of the theatre. In monologue, Victoria, proclaimed, 'I see so much talent, unborn hopes, dreams...' held back by fear.

'Here you can be yourself. This place demands it!'

For nearly 20 years, Zaccho through it's youth arts programme has given free school classes and performance opportunities to young people. See for more info.

Then there was African Brazilian martial art presented with the singing of spiritual songs and playing of traditional musical instruments. This group stood out in that it encompassed different ages from boys to older men. With it's roots in slavery, Adigun Sipho Capoeira Angola teaches respect for African heritage.

Mastre Terry Baruti said that slaves from Brazil, Cuba and Martinique had brought their art to the US.

Outside, as we waited for the train to ferry us back to the UCSF Mission Bay campus, Jennifer leant against a platform hoarding.

'I was really excited to be in the Opera House,' she said, 'because I have lived just a mile from here for 16 years and I have never been in the Opera House before.

'I guess one of the most exciting things about this performance was seeing the different ages. I love the communal feel that comes from young boys to men of all ages performing together.'

Next, as we arrived at the new UCSF campus that is still under construction, we met Jean Isaacs' San Diego Dance Theater who were sitting on a low wall by the sidewalk.

This was to be a 'moving site' said Jean, who proceeded to tow a musicblaster on a small trolley after her small group that set off up the plaza, dancing and sitting, reading and climbing over benches.

'What is special about this piece is that we created it here on location and that it really feels like a combining of elements of what San Francisco is,' said Lauren, referring to the education on the campus, the train and arts.

'This group of dancers, we've all worked with Jean at various points in our lives and she's trained all of us'. With some of the group having moved to the city, Lauren said, 'It's nice to have this transition of being here together from San Diego.'

Of the dance, she commented 'The piece is moving, which feels representative of all our lives - I know that sounds cliched!' she said as a quick afterthought.

And then we moved, too, further up the campus to the Genentech Hall and the Roger Evans Terrace, where a Greek operatic tragedy with dancers was being played out on the wide, stone steps.

This final piece was by Epiphany Productions with Kim Epifano playing a role.

Singer Melinda McLain is a ten-generation American whose Scottish ancestors with a clan motto of 'Conquer or Die' came from the Isle of Mull.

'It's lots of fun,' she enthused at the end. 'This is Genentech Hall, the city's cutting edge of science is going on in this building, so for me this is about how ancient wisdom can inform our contemporary explorations.'

'The words that I'm singing are from the Oracle of Delphi.'

Quite what Genentech workers would make of Greek drama on a Monday morning, one can only imagine.

The idea of Trolley Dances was conceived by Jean Isaacs who established them in San Diego in 1999. Her aim was to bring dance to people using public transport and to introduce people to new places.

As Trolley Dances rolls out for a second day with it's vibrant street performances, that aim is being achieved in San Francisco.

Pics show: Scott Wells and Dancers; Epiphany Productions; Jean Isaacs' San Diego Dance Theater; the Seastrunk Brothers at Bayview Opera House

Click here for album of pics

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