Stephen Pelton Dance Theater, SF

Written by:
Joanna G. Harris
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The Dance Hour: Stephen Pelton Dance Theater


April 8-10, 2010
Counterpulse 1310 Mission at 9th St. San Francisco

Dance is an ever evolving, continually recycling, endlessly inventive  
art form.Just when the trend seems to be toward “pure dance,” story  
dance appears.As TV dance dominates viewers’ taste, acrobatic exercise  
dominates stages.

With “The Dance Hour,” Pelton and his company give us sentimental,  
emotional, gestural dance, lyrically set to old time music and popular  

The evening provides a ‘change of pace’ from Pelton’s earlier work  
though punctuated with familiar gusto.

The outstanding pieces were the premiere of “Two Epilogues,” excerpts  
from “two rooms,” (work-in-progress) and “awake, a wake,” (2009). For  
“The Dance Hour,” Pelton has shared choreographic assignments with his  
company members. Cristy Funsch and Nol Simonse worked with Pelton on  
“Two Epilogues;” the company collaborated with Pelton and playwright  
BrianThorstenson on “two rooms; and Simonse is credited with “awake, a  
wake.” All share a similar sensibility and movement vocabulary, using  
a range of hand and arm gestures, sweeping, swinging leg and torso  
movement and free ambles in space. The work reflects true ensemble  

“Two Epilogues,” to the beautiful music of Gavin Bryars, starts with a  
piece by the whole ensemble (Dawson, Funsch, Rhodes, Simonse and Erin  
Mei-Ling Stuart) followed by a solo for Pelton, choreographed by  
Funsch and Simonse. The work sets an aura of introspection, of  
meeting, molding and letting go. Pelton’s solo develops arm gestures  
that have become central to the company’s dancing, shaping the space  
around,into, and unto body space. There are wide patterns in space and  
some peaceful balances.

“Two Epilogues” may just be prologue to a new dimension of this  
company’s offerings.

“two rooms” will be a new full-length play for actors, dances and  
musicians. “It follows three generations of San Francisco residents in  
their stories of desire, longing and obsession” says the program  
notes. Chad Dawson (a newcomer to the company) and Simonse dance to  
music by Max Richter and David Bowie. It is romantic, compassionate  
and splendidly performed. Simonse is tall; Dawson is short. A tender  
connection is made through their long running steps, reaches and  
yielding contact. Brad Smith performed with the dancers with guitar  

As change-of-pace entertainment, Stuart gave us “The Something-ettes,  
Off and On” (premiere), a satire on ‘gaga’ type girls in pink wigs.  
Natalie Greene provided vocals and danced the sticky sweet sad show-
off number with Chritine Bonansea and Julie Sheetz. Christy Funsch’s  
solo, “Box Elder” to Pavement Box and Helene Renaunt “Russalka’s  
Lament” was a lament indeed, full of nostalgia and meditation and  
Funch’s carefully structured use of intimate gesture and space.

“The Dance Hour” ended with an amazing rendition of “Leavin’ On A Jet  
Plane” sung by Private Freeman (a well known Bay Area dancer) to  
guitar and recording by Andy Keefer and sound design by Bill Smith. As  
a reprise of the entire program, Simonse gave the ensemble a splendid  
lyric adventure with moments of touching duets, solos and group work,  
using the floor and the full studio space. “awake, a wake” was danced  
by Tanya Bello, Chad Dawson, Christy Funsch, Juliann Rhodes and Nol  

Bravo to the Stephen Pelton Dance Company for their sentimental  
journeys and superb dance skills.

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