Today at noon Garrett + Moulton Productions gave the first of six free performances in the Pottruck Family Atrium of the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco (JCCSF). The composition, “A Show of Hands,” was described as “a dance performance in a unique community setting.” The atrium was, indeed, unique, offering an extended vertical dimension to accommodate an enormous grid (six across and four up) of hand images designed and implemented by Charles Moulton and called the Big Handsy Banner. It also provided hypercharged acoustics for the live performance by the Friction Quartet (violinists Kevin Rogers and Otis Harriel, violist Clio Tilton, and cellist Douglas Machiz) of an energetically rhythmic and minimalist score by Dan Becker. Needless to say, the Atrium provided a generous space in which dancers Vivian Aragon, Carolina Czechowska, Dudley Flores, Tegan Schwab, Nol Simonse, and apprentice Hanna Rose could execute the choreography of Janice Garrett.
The overall effect was certainly impressive. Garrett’s choreographic lexicon was impressively energetic and always seemed to establish just the right level of fit with Becker’s music. There was even one novel movement in which the violinists and violist entered the dancers performing area, thus integrating their own movements (and passivity) into the choreography. Becker’s scoring for this particular episode was skillfully crafted to support the choreographic vision with regard to when those musicians were actually playing.
The one real question, however, was just what that vision was. In my preview piece I observed that the dance was intended to explore “touch, gesture, and the expressive capabilities of the human hand.” In many of the scenes, one could easily appreciate the choreographer’s objective; and in some of them one could also appreciate the wit of her rhetoric. However, there were also extended sequences in which the significance of the hands seemed to be upstaged by that of the whole body. It is hard to tell whether or not that was intentional, but it did seem that at least some of the dancers had not managed to hone the skill of isolating their hand movements to capture what the choreographer claimed to have intended.
In spite of these weakness, however, “A Show of Hands” is still a fascinating “arena style” production. It is important to note that all performances will take place during the day. These will be at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, October 18, and Friday, October 25, and at 1 p.m. on Saturday, October 19, Thursday, October 24, and Saturday, October 26. The lighting, provided by the Atrium skylight and the pieces of colored glass in the stabile just below that skylight, creates a particularly felicitous ambience; and hopefully all remaining performances will take place on days as sunny as this one. JCCSF is located at 3200 California Street.