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GeraldCaselDance's Splinters in Our Ankles Fails to Connect

by Joanna G. Harris
December 18, 2015
ODC Theater
3153 17th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9834
Joanna G. Harris Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
Tinikling is the national dance from the Philippines. The dramaturg Patrick Denney, writing for GeraldCaselDance suggests that “you will not see Tinikling or any version of it performed…however, the issues raised by its performance history, such as cultural amnesia, the struggle for personal identity, the search for both personal and national narrative…have informed almost every aspect of this process.” Alas, I saw none of the above.

What I saw, and it was admirable, was Part I and II of Gerald Casel's Splinters in Our Ankles, obviously a reference to the dance during which bamboo poles are jumped through and over. In this work almost all the movement was totally abstract, almost mechanical at times and seemingly stressing movement patterns done primarily as solo adventures in space with occasional small group participation.

My friends and I admired the skill and motor memory of the dancers as they roamed the beautifully lit stage to computer music by Tim Russell. What was missing for this reviewer were elements of rhythmic interest, spatial design and foremost the dancers’ relationship to their work. There seemed to be sense of total anonymity.

In this post-modern era, dance performance seems focused on the technique and perseverance of dance gesture. Casel’s eight dancers are, for the most part very skilled in delivering the endless balances, floor falls and travelling patterns required. But even (as in the more interesting Part II), when they dance in groups of two and three, they remain distant from one another. We watch endless patterns of meeting, movement and departure.

Casel’s projections offered homage to Joe Good, Trisha Brown and other contemporary choreographers. I wish he would look again for what makes their work, work.

The dancers were: Arletta Anderson, Kirsten Bell, Christina Briggs-Winslow, Rebecca Chaleff, Janet Collard, Peiling Kao, Keven Lopez and Parker Murphy.

Excellent lighting and video was provided by Jack Beuttler with set design by Kate Edmonds and costumes (Part II) by Ellen Howes.


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