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Joanna G. Harris
Music and Dance Reviews
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Performance Reviews
United States
San Francisco Bay Area
San Francisco, CA

Mary Armentrout Dance Theater's "fantasia upon the moment when" offers up words on love

by Joanna G. Harris
September 11, 2014
450 Florida Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 626-0453
Joanna G. Harris
Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
My friend asked, "How does a dance critic write about performance when there's little dance and many words?" Performance has been around for half a century, probably even before the Judson Dance Theater started talking, inventing dance and theater and still dancing back in the 1960's. It is necessary to redefine "dance," continually as the field expands its action.

Mary Armentrout has been working at that process for some time.

For this event September 11-13at San Francisco's Z Space entitled "fantasia upon the moment when," a woman invisible to herself and a man who isn't sure whether he wants to exist decide on going in on an apartment together. The work is an hour long exploration on love, or rather, one's identity in love. It is an engaging process, many words and some action.

The piece is in four parts. First we meet a totally nude couple (Armentrout and Rogelio Lopez Garcia) who execute a slow motion erotic duet to the song "Mysteries of Love" by Antony and the Johnsons. This section is entitled "In the still of the night." For this reviewer, it is the most successful 'dance' piece of the evening, sweet, serious, and non-verbal.

Next, "love is like a string" continued through an overlong dialogue in which the title words and many variations thereof were repeated, through the action line of pulling (not a string but a rope) revealing various partners for Armentrout (Garcia and well as Jordan Joel and Brontez Purnell) at the other end. What seemed to be the question was whether or not to hang on. When the live 'dancers'
left the stage, their shadow images and the rope continued on screen.
One absorbs many evocative images and many, many repeated words.

'talking heads' returns to the couple, this time enacting an 'end of the day' ritual ('how was your day?") questioning whether it is possible to 'know one-another' and if that 'knowing' will diminish love. In some ways, neither of them are really present, since they video themselves, as images, until, finally, without cameras, they strip down, rolling over and over on a sofa. The questions get lost in physical intimacy.
Finally, the audience is called to rest on the stage, as Armentrout offers a 'darkness monologue,' continually questioning what we might know about ourselves, the other and love. It gets a bit clinical and far from comforting and even confronting, but I must suppose that depends on each individuals ability to know themselves…and love,

The most poetic moments of the evening is when we hear two poems by Rainer Maria Rilke set by Anton Webern. I would wish that Armentrout's language would move to such poetic level that would move to a deeper emotional state where the answers might become known and the dance language would speak effectively.

Credits are given to Evelyn Ficarra, composer Allen Willner, light designer, Ian Winters, video artist, Pamela Z, composer/performer, Kevin Sweetser, lighting execution, and Allie Khori, stage manager. All production elements were extremely effective.
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