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A Streetcar Named Backdrop 

Wear comfy shoes if you want to join in with San Francisco Trolley Dances

Wednesday, Oct 19 2005
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Everyone who saw last year's San Francisco Trolley Dances got a gleam in his eye and a big grin when trying to describe the energetic performances. The festival -- which involves groups of modern dancers stashed at unexpected stops on a streetcar line, where the costumed hoofers have free rein of the train cars and surrounding areas -- is a brainstorm from local movement maven Kim Epifano, who takes a cue from similar events in San Diego. S.F. audience members, from local arty types to tourist grandmas, may have been surprised that the dances were interactive enough to demand that viewers wear comfortable shoes, but they still came away entranced.

This year the ante has been upped: Amelia Rudolph's aerial dance company Project Bandaloop performs on (and off) the walls of the McRoskey Mattress Co. building, and that's just the beginning. Tour guides shepherd crowds onto vintage F-line cars, which follow their regular route but make unusual stops along the way for Epifano's Epiphany Productions, Robert Moses' Kin, and Krissy Keefer's Dance Brigade. The pieces are inspired by chunks of city geography as wide-ranging as hidden murals and Car 798, the last holdout from the original F-line fleet. Each group's site-specific work is only 10 to 12 minutes long, but the choreographers appear to have outdone themselves.

All of these companies have stellar reputations in the dance world but still wish for a wider audience -- hence, public transportation and its many unsuspecting viewers (see tourist grandmas, above). As a result, the presentations are likely to be accessible and beautiful: This won't be the place for dense, difficult, symbolic stuff. Even so, performers of this caliber don't do fluff. So whether your grandma is in town for a visit or you're a devoted follower of unusual public art displays, chances are good you'll wind up with a gleam in your eye and a big grin if you catch this show.

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Hiya Swanhuyser

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