Tucked between antiques emporia and car repair shops on Bryant and Fifth streets, a red door marks the spot where Joe Landini presents dance and theater productions 230 nights a year on the cozy black box stage of the Garage. Roughly 120 projects are launched annually through its Resident Artists' Workshop.
At the sixth annual Summer Performance Festival August 14-18 at ODC Theater, Landini showcases eight of these 120 choreographers, giving them the opportunity to develop their work for a larger theatrical venue.
How did you select which acts you would show at SPF6?
Most of the people I selected had been working with me for several years, so I had confidence in their ability to make and develop work without much babysitting. Aura [Fischbeck] has been working with me about seven years. On the other hand, this was Bryce [Vinnicombe]'s first year at the Garage, but she was the first one to be selected for the festival. It was simple: her work was really beautiful and should be seen again on a larger stage.
Is there a particular aesthetic to the festival?
The work itself is eclectic, in a wide spectrum of styles. It's a representation of who's coming to the city. All the choreographers are of the same generation -- they've been making work in San Francisco for about five years.
Do you notice any trends in recent dance?
Yes, I think there's a tendency in this generation to move away from theory. Emerging choreographers are frustrated with being perceived as too intellectual. Choreographers really want to connect with their audiences. There are more pop culture references, and the work is more linear -- they want to take the viewer on a journey.
This is the first generation that has to sell box office tickets. If you want to be a choreographer, you definitely feel the pressure to sell. There was just more funding in the past, so you could have work that was theory-based and postmodern, that only some audience members will "get." I'm not sure choreographers believed they had a contract with the audience: "You give me money and I give you something of value -- and I help define what value is." I'm seeing more family members, roommates, and coworkers in the audiences. Choreographers feel responsible that these people enjoy their experience. All eight of the pieces at SPF6 are entertaining.
Where does the Garage fit into the San Francisco dance scene?
The Garage has its own identity, but you can outgrow the Garage in two years. Part of my responsibility as a presenter is to find more opportunities and funding for the choreographers. I'm not sure if the Garage shapes what happens on other stages, but it's an important part of the ecosystem. We serve a particular demographic and are vital to the artistic economy in the city. We have to get new artists to San Francisco -- we need the new blood. Someone with a BFA needs to think San Francisco is an option. We don't charge for anything, and with the cost of living in San Francisco, you can't underestimate the value of something that's free.
Performers at SPF6 are BodiGram, Jenni Bregman & Dancers, Aura Fischbeck Dance, Gretchen Garnett & Dancers, Angela Mazziotta, The Milissa Payne Project, Nine Shards, and Vinnicombe/Winkler, featuring comedic dance theater on "the ridiculousness of drinking," as well as works that question the American identity, the desire for home, the condition of being an outsider, hot air balloon expeditions, and more. Each show is a tight forty-minute production; $40 gets you in to all six programs.
SAFEhouse for the Performing Arts presents Summer Performance Festival 6 August 14-18 at ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., S.F. Tickets are $15-20, or $40 for a festival pass; call 415-863-9834. Visit www.odctheater.org/buytickets.php for details on programs.