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The Arts
07.02.08

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Phaedra

Photograph by Joan Schwartz
I Can See My House From Here: Daniel Bear Davis makes an entrance in a performance from the month-long 'Discourse off the Walls' series at the Tannery.

Thirty-Day Wonder

A luminous month of cutting-edge dance closes at the Tannery.

By Maureen Davidson


The low-ceilinged room is heavy with the breath of a few dozen people, close-packed on fold-out chairs on a hot night, expectantly facing the door. The door is the spotlight, the proscenium, the source of air, seen through the empty distance of another tiny connecting room. The lights darken, then rise, and all eyes are drawn to a man perched precariously on a stool. Ken Williams stretches forward an unreasonable distance to lean one hand flat against the wall, passionately. On the other end of the tight U of his torso, one foot strains across the same distance. The door reclaims attention as fingers from outside spider their way tentatively up and around the frame, curve nervously inside, followed by the whole hands, then the woman. Sharon Took-Zozaya continues to dance--with the walls, windows, door frames, floors, using the space as her very present partner, flinging herself from it, then clinging to it in an intense pas de deux. Neither do her collaborator Williams and Leralee Whittle focus on each other; the space takes on a very corporeal presence.

Small Portraits was one dance of seven during one of 24 nights of dance offered during "Discourse Off the Walls: A Month of Dance in a Small Room" at the Dead Cow Gallery throughout June. It's also one of two "shared choreographers" evenings in the series that featured dancer/choreographers from the Bay Area and beyond performing in a pass-the-hankie-intimate setting. This evening mixed structured improvisations, mime, body music, aerial acrobatics, butoh-inspired expressionism and a theatrical retelling of the Dust Bowl story, "Rain Follows the Plow," in often thought-provoking works. It's rare to have the opportunity to see a kind of survey of what's going on in contemporary dance performed locally with accomplished artists, sometimes creating on the spot at performance velocity, with an occasional glimmer of brilliance.

It started with a conversation with Kirby Scudder of the Santa Cruz Institute of Contemporary Arts. "I thought there should be a dance event at the Tannery," said dancer Sarah Day, who came to see the Arts Center under construction and "fell in love with the space." Scudder offered Day and her collaborator Daniel Bear Davis a residency for a month. The result was "Discourse Off the Walls," whose centerpiece was A Dance a Day from June 7 to 29: Day and Davis performing exquisitely together, with others, or hosting other dancers in a moving gift to the Santa Cruz arts community. See some on www.myspace.com/shahandblahproductions.

"I hope fresh, experimental, lively arts continue as this space becomes developed," said Day. "Now it's activated for the future."


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