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Rite of Spring (photo by Weidong Yang)

Labayen Dance/SF: San Francisco

Rites of Spring       photo (above) by Weidong Yang

Dramatic, Lyrical and Moving…

Review by Jo Tomalin Ph.D.

Sandrine Cassini in Labayen's RITES OF SPRING ( Photo by Andrew Faulkner)

Sandrine Cassini in Labayen’s RITES OF SPRING
(Photo by Andrew Faulkner)

The Labayen Dance/SF 18th Anniversary Season production at San Francisco’s Dance Mission Theatre on March 15 – 17, 2013 presented several dance pieces, including one World Premiere – Enrico Labayen’s Tears – and one much anticipated US Premiere, Labayen’s Rites of Spring, which anchored the program.

Labyen Dance in RITES OF SPRING (Photo by Weidong Yang)

Labyen Dance in RITES OF SPRING
(Photo by Weidong Yang)

Imagine two red hand weights and three red folding chairs on stage while Igor Stravinsky’s melodic flute and violin music floats in as three women (Sandrine Cassini, Leda Pennell and Jaidah Terry) enter. They are watched by a guy (Victor Talledos) lying on the floor wearing a baseball hat, and there you have the opening mise en scéne of Labayen’s striking Rites of Spring. Labayen’s distinct choreography ranges from stark to stylized and is very well done. This is a theatrical and athletic Rites with perfect unison of the dancers as they stretch en pointe at gravity defying angles on and around the chairs. There are fascinating role reversals as the guy takes a chair and a girl watches him – while the other two girls flex their hand weights to the music then they all watch the guy’s mysterious sequence of leaps and turns. Red lighting design by Harry Rubeck complements the vibrant setting admirably. Rites is a sexy and balletic power play performed by all four dancers with precision, grace and combustible energy.

Labayen's TEARS (Photo by Weidong Yang)

Labayen’s TEARS
(Photo by Weidong Yang)

The evening opened with Tears (World Premiere) choreographed by Labayen and danced beautifully by Victor Talledos, Lena Pennell, Jaidah Terry, Karen Meyers, Yuko Hata and Keon Saghari. A meditative soundscape by Guest Artist Gabriel Goldberg complemented the sensuous and spiritual atmosphere and sculptured white fabric hanging in a pool of white light. Fabric was used among the dancers to help them twirl, lift, pull and balance eachother, effortlessly.

Sandrine  Cassini  & Victor Talledos in Labayen's TEARS (Photo by Andrew Faulkner)

Sandrine Cassini & Victor Talledos
in Labayen’s TEARS
(Photo by Andrew Faulkner)

As with all of Labayen’s work, there are deeper meanings to the core of the dance. In Tears he explores an emotional personal journey of his feelings for a beloved family member, who recently passed. This is a creative and moving piece that will likely become a mainstay of the company’s repertoire.

Ismael Acosta & Laura Bernasconi in Nourishment  (photo by Weidong Yang)

Ismael Acosta & Laura Bernasconi
in Nourishment
(photo by Weidong Yang)

Nourishment, choreographed by Laura Bernasconi was danced with pure control of adagio lifts by Ismael Acosta & Bernasconi to rhythmic off beat music by Gregg Ellis. This is dance acro with attitude and mischief. Amazing piece!

Desde lo Mas Profundo del Corazon Hasta el Limite de la Razon (translation: from the Depth of the heart to the limit of reason) is a fluid modern dance piece choreographed by Victor Talledos. Soloist Leda Pennell danced vibrantly with great extensions to music by Albert Pla.

Sandrine Cassini & Victor Talledos  in Cassini's Treize  (photo by Weidong Yang)

Sandrine Cassini & Victor Talledos
in Cassini’s Treize
(photo by Weidong Yang)

Treize, choreographed by Guest Artist Sandrine Cassini, an international dancer and choreographer,  was a very polished performance in every way. Cassini and Talledos danced this short playful and romantic piece with muscular lifts and yes, drags across the floor to Chopin’s Prelude #13. Fluid and precise – it’s a wonderful creation, leaving us hungry for more.

Chrysalis choreographed by Daiane Lopes da Silva is more developed since the last Labayen season production. The imaginative ‘out of the box’ theatrical concept involves a toy dog, a dancer in a red frilly lacy tutu looking for a dog sitter, several dancers in black goggles, yellow lighting, dripping sounds evoking an underworld, insect like creatures seeking food and a way out of the underworld.  The ensemble of dancers: Keon Saghari, Yuko Hata, Ildiko Polony, Michelle Kinny, Karla Johanna Quintero and Courtney Anne Russell do a fine job in this fast-moving piece which ranges from humorous to dramatic dance segments, complemented by the music of Per Nogard and Nine Inch Nails.

Awit Pag-Ibig (Translation: Love Songs) choreography by Labayen, and dancers Victor Talledos, Leda Pennell, Jaidah Terry, Karen Meyers and Yuka Hata. Seen in an earlier season, this piece looked better than ever. Set to beautiful music (Philippine Folk Songs arranged for piano & violin by Gilopez Kabayao & Corazon Pineda) often in a minor key, this dance piece is based on Labayen’s personal story of life, suffering and love, told well through his moving choreography and his dancers. The quality and unison of the four women was wonderful, showing precision and a great attack on the space while Talledos was muscular and lyrical in his duos and solos.

Victor Talledos choreographed Desolation, danced by Ana Robles & Ismael Acosta. This was a warm and romantic piece perfectly complemented by the soulful music by Sigur Ros. Robles and Acosta expertly performed the sustained expansive adagio duo with moody and joyous visceral movement.

This was a very successful season for the Labayen Dance/SF company. Award winning choreographer Enrico Labayen and his company of dancers and choreographers created a wonderful evening of dance that was particularly well suited to the space of the Mission Dance Theatre.

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Jo Tomalin, Ph.D.
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