REVIEW: RAWdance’s “RE:FRAMED” at ODC San Francisco
Editor’s note: DancePulp would like to welcome Lucy Wild from San Francisco to our Guest Contributors. We are thrilled to see DancePulp moving west!
On opening night of their Fall Season at San Francisco’s ODC, RAWdance presented RE:FRAMED, an evening of four contemporary dance works. The thread connecting these four seemingly different works was a series of unanswered questions that arise when considering the inherent ever-changing quality of the live art form of dance. The directors sought out to explore when a dance is truly finished and if it is feasible to consider a work perpetually in-progress. Directors and creators of RAWdance, Ryan T. Smith and Wendy Rein, investigate the answer to these questions by presenting revisited works, restaging once site-specific works, and releasing to the stage a work in its early stages of development.
The night began with the presentation of The Beauty Project, an originally site-specific work created as an installation performed on loop in an empty storefront of one of San Francisco’s largest shopping venues. The lights came up on a raw duet. Two dancers in identical black bobbed wigs clothed in off-white slips jutted past and around each other. With sharp angular movements and frequent pauses in typical mannequin poses, the dancers remain in a rectangular pool of light. The image is nothing abstracted, until the stage space is transformed as the duet exits and four more dancers emerge. The piece progresses in the same sharp contemporary movements, the dancers appearing as broken down models for a chain clothing store. Long strips of plastic hanging at the front and the back of the stage become reminiscent of a storefront, but for the most part the bulk of the piece is free from its site-specific past. The restaging was intriguing, but I couldn’t help but wonder if the message would have been clearer through a glass window.
After a brief pause, the environment in the theater shifts dramatically as the founders of RAWdance themselves entered on stage in an unforgettable nature. Ryan ran on to stage in a gorilla suit (aside from the mask) and Wendy in a polka dot dress and high heals. The dancers chased each other around the stage in circles all the while keeping a 3/4 time signature with a loud chorus of unison sighs. This was only the start of a dynamic duet detailing and presenting to the audience Wendy, Ryan, and their compelling relationship as artistic partners and friends. Double Exposure is a combination of five independent choreographers’ own work and style created as two-minute duets for Wendy and Ryan. Each choreographer’s creation was woven together through deconstructed costume changes, and each one presented the same identities in a new light. Perhaps the most compelling was from well-known bay area choreographer Joe Goode, in which the dancers blur the line between performance and non-performance by speaking out loud choreographic notes while simultaneously executing movements.
Burn In, Part I is a work in progress performed and choreographed by Wendy, Ryan, and Breton Tyner-Bryan. The trio, filled with the tension and intensity, was far from a work in progress. The choreography was dynamic and the movement was executed flawlessly. Each dancer’s stage presence was so captivating that my eye was not quite sure who to be drawn to. The only clue that convinced me this piece was not yet finished was the clear labeling that it was just “Part I.”
The evening closed with a blast of high-energy. In 66 Measures a soundtrack of techno beats played as six dancers in six pools of light completed fast paced movements occasionally rotating to a new spot. The work was a stark contrast from the maturity and poignancy of the earlier works of the evening, but it was yet another exploration of dance and choreography as an ever-changing and manipulative art form.