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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Madonna's Ex-Dancers Dare to be Truthful in Strike a Pose

Posted By on Tue, Jun 28, 2016 at 2:00 PM

[Left to right] Former Madonna dancers and stars of Strike a Pose: Oliver Crumes III,  Salim Gauwloos, Kevin Stea, Carlton Wilborn, and Luis Camacho once tap danced around certain truths. - ACT OUT PHOTOGRAPHY BY JIM NORRENA
  • ACT OUT Photography by Jim Norrena
  • [Left to right] Former Madonna dancers and stars of Strike a Pose: Oliver Crumes III, Salim Gauwloos, Kevin Stea, Carlton Wilborn, and Luis Camacho once tap danced around certain truths.
Madonna's feature-length rockumentary Truth or Dare spotlighted many of the Queen of Pop's sexy song-and-dance numbers from her 1990 Blond Ambition Tour. But it was what director Alek Keshishian captured offstage that truly curled mainstream America's toes and almost garnered the film an X rating. For the seven male dancers — six gay and one straight — that made up Madonna's dance troupe, however, certain truths were still too shocking to reveal.  It took 25 years, but today they're ready to tell all in a new documentary about the truths behind Truth or Dare, entitled Strike a Pose.  

SF Weekly
 caught up with the band of "brothers," Luis Camacho, Salim Gauwloos, Kevin Stea, Carlton Wilborn, and Oliver Crumes III, between a Macy's in-store appearance and their film's Frameline premiere on June 25, about the secrets that they didn't dare expose. 

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Interview: Choreographer Sean Dorsey on the Depths of the Missing Generation

Posted By on Wed, Apr 27, 2016 at 5:45 PM

l-r: Nol Simonse, ArVejon Jones, Brian Fisher, Sean Dorsey - LYDIA DANILLER
  • Lydia Daniller
  • l-r: Nol Simonse, ArVejon Jones, Brian Fisher, Sean Dorsey

By the time it comes to Z Space in early May, choreographer Sean Dorsey's The Missing Generation will be midway through its 20-city national tour. Twice nominated for Isadora Duncan Awards, it's a dance-theater work that looks at the trauma of HIV/AIDS survivors, paying special attention to transgender individuals whose stories have often been left out of the prevailing narratives of the crisis years. 

The piece came together after two years of conducting oral histories with survivors of the epidemic, only a fraction of which could be used in the final work. SF Weekly spoke to Dorsey about his choreographic style, the heartbreak of having to leave so many people's intimate stories on the proverbial cutting room floor, and what the idea of the missing generation came to mean for him.

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Digging the Darkness with punkkiCo's Salve Regina

Posted By on Thu, Jan 7, 2016 at 1:30 PM

Raisa Punkki (r) Mihyun Lee (middle) Fanni Miettinen (in red) - AFSHIN ODABAEE
  • Afshin Odabaee
  • Raisa Punkki (r) Mihyun Lee (middle) Fanni Miettinen (in red)

San Francisco dancer, choreographer, and founder of punkkiCo Raisa Punkki digs the dark side. A native of Finland, and grew up in a place that encourages introspection.

“It’s dark and cold there most of the year, and that affects your mind. Finns tend to be artistic and stoic," she says. "A colleague once warned me that Americans might not like my darkness."

Though the brightness and openness of the Bay Area — in terms of the art scene and the weather — are part of what keep Punkki here, she continues to mine the darkness for its generative potential. Her current piece, Salve Regina, delves into that most dark and holy mystery, the female body. The Latin title comes from a medieval choral piece and translates to “hail, holy queen.” For the ninety-minute performance, Punkki and her collaborators created six dances that examine the complex of admiration, queasiness, and terror that men and women feel about our mammalian first home.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Inside Daybreaker, S.F.'s Sober Pre-Dawn Dance Party

Posted By on Tue, Dec 22, 2015 at 10:30 AM

  • Daniel Lee
I’ve always fundamentally disagreed with the concept of early morning — in my opinion, humans were not meant to rise before the sun, which is why beds are extra comfy when you have to get out of one.

Yet here I was in the Macy’s event center in Union Square learning the dance moves to Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)" at 6:30 in the morning. I've got a MammaChia smoothie in one hand and bottle of mango-flavored coconut water in the other, a flashing Macy's-branded rave stick poking out of my back pocket. The reason for my early rising is Daybreaker, a New York-based movement that brings pre-dawn sober dance parties to cities across the globe.

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Gerald Casel Sets and Resets the Tinikling at ODC

Posted By on Thu, Dec 17, 2015 at 10:00 AM

Dancers: Arletta Anderson, Christina-Briggs Winslow, Peiling Kao - PHOTO BY ANDREW WEEKS
  • Photo by Andrew Weeks
  • Dancers: Arletta Anderson, Christina-Briggs Winslow, Peiling Kao

Filipino-American dancer Gerald Casel is taking a trip to his origins by way of Trisha Brown. For his upcoming Splinters in our Ankles, Casel appropriates movement techniques from Brown’s Set and Reset as a means to explore the impact of colonialism on dance and cultural expression in the Philippines.

“I’m stealing from Trisha Brown, Stephen Petronio, Joe Goode, and others," Casel says. "It’s tongue and cheek, paying homage at the same time as reversing the historical habit of colonizers appropriating from the colonized.”

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Speaking Rhythm in Kathak and Tap at Z Space

Posted By on Fri, Dec 11, 2015 at 11:00 PM

Dancer: Rachna Nivas - PHOTO BY MARGO MORITZ
  • Photo by Margo Moritz
  • Dancer: Rachna Nivas

Indian kathak and American tap are two dance styles that run deep in their countries of origin. I’ll leave the analysis up to the historians and ethnographers, but no doubt someone was tapping here when this country was a colony, and apparently kathak can be traced back to the storytelling culture that preceded the Bhagavad Gita. Kathak dancer Rachna Nivas and tap dancer Michelle Dorrance each gave me quick histories of their respective forms when we spoke recently about the upcoming kathak-tap collaboration at Z Space, Speak, which also stars Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Rina Mehta, and features musicians Jayanta Banerjee, Debashis Sarkar, Satyaprakash Mishra, Allison Miller, Carmen Staaf, Todd Sickafoose, and Kara Mack.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

James Graham's Homeroom Makes Sustained Eye Contact With Platonic Love

Posted By on Wed, Dec 2, 2015 at 1:00 PM

  • Robbie Sweeney

The focus of James Graham Dance Theatre (JGDT) for the last three years, Homeroom debuts at ODC Theater next Thursday, Dec. 10 for a three-night run. The IZZIE (Isadora Duncan Award)-winning Graham's duet with Sebastian Grubb, this full-length dance theater piece examines male relationship, the tension between athletics and dance, and simple connections between human beings. Having developed out of Graham's earlier work, especially 2012-13's We Can Sit Together in Homeroom, Homeroom builds on his study and eventual certification in Gaga.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Popping, Locking, Grinning at the SF Hip Hop Fest

Posted By on Tue, Nov 24, 2015 at 1:00 PM

Dancing by Academy of Villains - PHOTO BY BLAKE TUCKER
  • Photo by Blake Tucker
  • Dancing by Academy of Villains

Who among us does not love hip hop dance? If you made it to the 17th Annual San Francisco International Hip Hop Dancefest over the weekend, you were likely popping and locking a big fat grin. Friday night’s 12 acts each took a different tack — from the shadow-play storytelling of Academy of Villains to the modern-dance inflections of Loose Change to the acrobatic hijinx of The Ruggeds — but each and every dancer was saying yes. Yes, I am, and yes to life.

The audience was in on the message, calling back and cheering wildly. Cindy Claes’s solo did elicit a no, but that’s because she was performing a woman's struggle to keep her eyes on the prize rather than get hung up on a romance. Not a voice in the house was cheering for a Hollywood ending, and Claes did not disappoint. Oakland ‘tween girls group On Demand also had a great message, telling us with their bright costumes and bold moves by a range of body types not to be afraid to shine. I’d like to hear more of that, America.     

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Mainframe: Whose Body is it Anyway?

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2015 at 8:00 PM

  • Ben Hersh

When we met at a rehearsal for her upcoming piece Mainframe, choreographer Katharine Hawthorne brought up Plato’s allegory of the cave. Audience members at one of her previous shows, Analog, thought Hawthorne's use of shadow play was a reference to Plato's tale of our tendency to confuse an image with a thing itself. Though her intentions for Analog were different, Hawthorne found the idea very rich.

Paraphrasing Rebecca Solnit’s book River of Shadows, she talked about the way that the screen has begun to seem, for many, more real than the rest of life. She explained that Mainframe was inspired, in part, by Plato and Solnit, but also by the evolution of the computer as an object. The piece will touch on the progression from giant clacking machines to handheld devices speaking in a woman’s voice, and the dancers will lift and dance around Siri’s forebears. Hawthorne reminded me that though punch cards and dot matrix printers have gone the way of the dodo, mainframes are still working away.

“We no longer think of the mainframe as something we engage with, but when you use an ATM you are connecting through a mainframe somewhere. It’s a bit creepy.”

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Lines Ballet and Lisa Fischer: The Propelled Heart

Posted By on Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 10:00 AM

Kara Wilkes with singer Lisa Fischer - PHOTO BY QUINN B. WARTON
  • Photo by Quinn B. Warton
  • Kara Wilkes with singer Lisa Fischer

Lines Ballet director Alonzo King is known for encouraging his dancers to develop their singular artistic expression as well as their technical virtuosity. While watching The Propelled Heart, the company’s collaboration with Grammy-winning singer Lisa Fischer, my companion for the performance described Lines as “a company of soloists.” Although there were moments, particularly in the second half of the piece, when the company fit together to form some very striking sculptural tableaux, that assessment held true. The choreography seemed aimed at providing a series of peak experiences, rather than something integrated as a whole. But the undeniable verve and remarkable skill of Courtney Henry, Babtunji, Kara Wilkes, Laura O’Malley—again I feel I should note the whole company—held the audience in thrall. Fischer walked among the dancers as she sang, occasionally blessing them with her touch as well as her agile voice. The full house leapt to their feet at the end.

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  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"