Paufve/Dance, SF

Written by:
Joanna G. Harris
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Jill Randall and Christy Thomas in “So I Married Abraham Lincoln”
Photo courtesy of paufve | dance

‘So I Married Abraham Lincoln?’

Premiere of a dance theater work about Mary Todd Lincoln
Choreography by Randee Paufve of paufve|dance
Sound score by Heather Heise
Lighting design by Gabe Maxon
Set design by Jack Carpenter
Costumes by Keriann Egeland
Dramturg: Liz Lisle
Dance Mission Theater, San Francisco
Jan. 27-29, 2012

Contemporary/postmodern dance is continually experimenting with content, material, space and movement. Randee Paufve, in this new work, “So I Married Abraham Lincoln?,” is concerned with all aspects of the genre, in this case, a semi-biographical glimpse of Mary Todd Lincoln, with a general background reference to other first ladies. If we can piece the elements together, it is a very effective presentation. Unfortunately, the fascinating fragments don’t add up.

Dance Mission is a good space for experimental work and Krissy Keefer and her Dance Brigade have kept the place functioning for 30 years. The facility has a limited staircase and lobby. (Don’t ever yell “Fire!”) Yet, Paufve keeps the audience in the hallway while dancers speak (oh please let us hear you), then leads a group of over 100 to two different back studios before seating them in the theater proper. As the time for placing the audience in the house went by, the two “prelude” events got lost: a “chair” dance for the principals in the first studio, then a dance of sorts in the second studio. It was impossible to learn what was accomplished in either space, except to note the dancers care.

In the theater itself the sequence of movement phrases were intriguing and always well executed. Jill Randall, Katie Kruger and Mo Miner were outstanding; the whole company is very focused and dedicated. (Other dancers include Valerie Gutwirth, Rebecca Johnson, Nadia Oka and Christy Thomas.) We suspect but do not know bits and pieces about Mary Todd, that she was mentally unstable, greatly depressed over her personal losses, but along with the passing introduction of other “first ladies,” we don’t learn much. The movement material, arm gestures, floor patterns and contact among group members are all very well designed and executed and pleasing to watch. What are we to learn and remember about Mary Todd? She, like other women, suffer in their time. Why is she unique?

This project was a great accomplishment for Paufve, who works long and hard on it with the cooperation and support of many of her fellow dancers, technicians, community members and the Shawl-Anderson Dance Center in Berkeley, where she is affiliated. We applaud her efforts and hope she can restage “I Married Abraham Lincoln” again so it can be more thoroughly seen and appreciated.

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