Winter Dances, Women on the Way Festival, SF

Written by:
Joanna G. Harris
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Winter Dances

Western Sky Studio, Berkeley, CA,
January 24, 2010

Women on the Way Festival

The Garage 975 Howard St.
San Francisco, CA January 28, 2010


Dance Lawton Dances.  Photo: Liz Payne.

Although men choreographers are currently claiming attention in the
ballet world, women are taking stage in modern dance and performance
Two Bay Area concerts demonstrated the range of ‘women’s work’ this
past week; one group presented Winter Dances in Berkeley; the other, a
more extensive festival has proceeded from January 14-31 at three
different sites

The Western Sky Studio in Berkeley has been the venue for classes in
dance and the somatic arts for many years. It is a comfortable space
for performances, although audience sits on bleachers or sometimes on
the floor.    Many choreographers share the space. For this event,
Minoo Hamzavi,
Aileen Kim and Ruth Botchan were the major figures. All their dances
are ‘content’ based and have social, political or personal themes.

Hamzavi’s first piece, “Tea with Holy Men” had the dancers Andrea
Brosnan, Peggy Murphy and Rinda Wardle seated at table, changing
places, preparing to eat. She sees this as a way to portray “three
major religions having the same message.” A good intention not quite
realized.  Her own piece “Gracious, Tenacious Green” danced as a solo
and dedicated to Iranian immigrants, reflected the lovely figure
motions and quick footsteps of her culture.

Aileen Kim offered two pieces. One is a trio for the women in”Tea…”
entitled “Savoring tomorrow.” To an un-identified work by Mozart, the
girls wove in and out of each other spaces with pleasant free flow
movement, punctuated by occasional moments of floor work. Her solo,
“Hana (Flower) portrayed a woman doing housework while imagining a
dance desires. Kim adds a tutu, a toe shoe and a tiara to her costume
finally realized that the mix doesn’t work.
“Hana” was entertaining and pleasing. More fully developed dance
vocabulary would have extended the impact of both works.

Ruth Botchan is an accomplished dancer who for years has taught the
Erik Hawkins technique at the studio. Her solo, “Distant Memories” to a
score by Jon Corigliano and text by Bob Dylan, recalls a mothering
figure at the moment the child is pt to bed. Botchan performs various
reaching gestures to a bed place upstage; she moves towards and away
from the bed with growing concern. Finally, she turns off the lamp and
leaves.  It is a lovely study of mothering and memory: it too could use
more interesting space and movement patterns.

At The Garage, I was able to see two choreographers and their groups,
Alyce Finwall and dancers Julia Hollas, Emmaly Widerhold, Kaaitlyn
Dykstra and Peiling Kao performed “Wide Time” and Dana Lawton Dances
gave us three works, “Horsethief Lake,” Coasting,” and “Mixed
Finwall’s piece was troubling since it randomly juxtaposed gesture, for
both face and fingers, with post-modern tumbling and floor work with
conventional ballet pirouettes and other classic postures. Her four
dancers are large and filled the stage more than adequately, and
although there were some simple line formations, and one notably quiet
solo by Ms. Kao, the piece was a jumble of confusion. The music was by
Jason Hoopes with video projections by Loren R. Robertson.

Ms. Lawton’s work is better integrated and her dancers are very much at
ease with one another. “Horsethief Lake’ consisted of “memories,” each
section well defined in movement style. The dancers were Becky Chuun,
Jill Randall, Alisa Rasera and Chantal Sampogna.  The piece was set to
music by Frank Zincavagae.  Lawton’s solo “Coasting” seen in the Bay
Area last year, was even more exciting with good lighting  (designer
not noted) within the small containing space. Lawton comments that the
piece explores the concept that “movements of people are unpredictable,
the movement of time is predictable”. It realizes her intention; she
moves along one line, down left to up right, carefully and slowly
focussed on the line and time. It is a very rewarding piece to see. Ms.
Lawton’s skill and concentration are remarkable.

In her last offering for the evening, “Mixed Blessings,” proclaimed the
various dubious ‘joys’ of motherhood, several of the dancers reciting
appropriate examples, e.g. ” I hate you, you’re a mean mother. Love,
Lawton developed the sound score and the various ‘mommys who danced
were Lisa Bush, Cathy Davalos, Laura Marlin, Robin Nassiter, Jill
Randall, Chantal Sampogna and Jennifer Smith. The ironic sweetness of
their common feelings were well expressed in gestures of giving and

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