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02/09/2018

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Jill Randall

I was glad to experience "On Beauty" opening night. Thank you Nancy and dancers for a beautiful piece. Thank you to the Brower Center for the "On Beauty" exhibit highlighting the work of the late Doug Tompkins.

Some thoughts coming to mind right now include:


Hearing Nancy at the start of the event was lovely - explaining the piece and explaining how the dance would go/flow this evening. It makes the audience feel welcomed and taken care of.

I loved looking UP and watching the dance start above us on the next floor. The dancing in and out of the frame, the lifts, the slides on a wooden bench....alive, flowing, asking us to "look here, watch now...."

One of the great elements of site-specific work is the literal, kinesthetic experience of the audience members. The fact that we got to move, switch positions, consider our level and body positions...engages us in a whole way that sitting in a traditional theater does not ask for. I also love that site-specific work requires that audience members LOOK and see each other, to be in the space together.

I appreciated the quintet of dancers and their presence and engagement with the choreography, plus their ease within this space, even while dancing on concrete. I especially enjoyed the sections of duet with Charles Slender-White and Sebastian Grubb. Their connection as performers captured the eye; they took flight together.

Sonsheree Giles played two lovely roles as performer and costume designer for "On Beauty." As always, Giles is athletic, whole-bodied, and easeful in her dancing....and her color palette for the costumes was excellent against the concrete space, plus made the colors of the costumes and the colors in the gigantic photographs on the walls dance together as well.

In this very modern space (the first and second floors of the Brower Center in Berkeley), I appreciated seeing this humanness against the concrete. Skin, limbs, motion. Near, next to, touching the humanmade. Making connections.

At the conclusion of this 30 minute dance, I am left with the idea of dance, motion, and choreography - whether humanmade or naturally occurring - is everywhere. You just have to pause and look. I think Doug Tompkins would appreciate that.

-Jill Randall, Artistic Director of Shawl-Anderson Dance Center

Deborah Slater

As always, love the idea of threading from the political into and through art. Doug Thompkins photos of the Patagonia Parklands were large, warm, and beautiful, an interesting contrast to the cement and straight line of the Brower Center. Then come the 3-D dance bodies in perfect color choices, moving against stillness, making visual flight, soaring, wind, etc. Was particularly taken with Sonsheree and Sebastian's duet, the humanity between them, the pull through straight body lift by the neck, then released from the inside out by her arms... Also very much appreciated Charles Amirkanian's score, simple, uncluttered, mixing live sound and music, my favorite part being bird songs overlapping to create harmonics, all very soothing and beautiful.

As a choreographer, the downside for me was watching these lovely dancers on cement. Made me ache for them. But that is the nature of site specific and many thanks to them for perservering.

Judy Langberg

I'm still thinking about it. The start: dancers up high, above the crazy undulating "cloud" sculpture that belongs to the space. Dancers actively reaching out and then seemingly being blown across the landing, to the sounds of wind and weather. Magical!
And below, at our level, moving as 4-legs, like mammals. Loping on hands and feet, pivoting on shoulders: in the wild. Bird calls in the sound mix. Such soft and gentle beings contrasting with the harsh cement and metal fixings of the building.
Magnificent movement and great partnering, viewed close in. Beautifully felt piece.

Nina Haft, Artistic Director of Nina Haft & Company

The evening was just the right layering of image, movement, color, sound and space....not too dense to override the surroundings. The opening was delightful: looking at a shifting canvas above! Making entrances and exits a matter of depth as well as framing. The sound was exquisite, subtle and enveloping. Amirkhanian's blend of sources was below consciousness for me much of the time, which I felt was a great choice. As the piece went on, it grew in weight within the piece.

The dancers were stunning. They gathered like different members of the same species, each moving with similar sensibilities.

Although they were very beautiful, I did not really consider the large photographs as part of the composition while watching. Perhaps the colors of the costumes foregrounded the dancers in ways that needed no other context, but I wish I could see it all again with those wild yet tightly composed images in mind.

Each 'station' had its own flavor, and I appreciated that. Coming full circle to where we began the show was a great choice.

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