One of the newer contemporary dance companies to assemble in San Francisco is the Zhukov Dance Theatre, founded by Artistic Director Yuri Zhukov in 2008. Zhukov Dance Theatre returned with its â€śProduct 02â€ť last weekend at the Yerba Buena Center for the Artsâ€™ Novellus Theater, performing two Friday and Saturday evening performances. As a former dancer with the San Francisco Ballet, Zhukovâ€™s presence with the Ballet was not forgotten. Former fellow dancers turned out in abundance on opening night Friday. His company consists of nine dancers from around the world, all of whom exhibited outstanding professional dance capabilities.
Zhukov presented his world premiere of Pioneer Plaques 2009, inspired by the 1972 and 1973 launches of the Pioneer spacecrafts. Attached to the outside of each craft was an engraved metal plaque depicting various aspects of human civilization and the location of the Earth relative to the Milky Way in the event that either craft was intercepted by intelligent life.
As the lights dim, a projection appears from space accompanied by a voice observing the human condition from afar. It vanishes, and a single shaft of light slants down a darkened stage. Dancers begin undulating on the floor at the light source, emerging to and from the darkened space, humankind in its pre-civilized form. As we approach the conclusion of the piece, a solitary woman, danced compellingly by Hildur Ottarsdottir, stands before a metal wall pelted by rain, the sound of the rain pouring over the audience. A couple approaches, fully involved in movement with each other. The woman crumples to the ground, succumbing to lamentation. When the couple leaves, she rises to struggle with her solitary world. Another couple enters, and she falls again to the floor, resuming her passive lament. They, too, leave her to her existential reality. When a single shaft of light returns, she leaves. The projection reappears. The pulse of mankind remains thrashing as the lights dim.
Set in five movements to five different musical scores, the piece takes us through the evolution of human civilization over approximately one hour.
Zhukov combines instrumental music by Antonio Vivaldi and Steve Reich with electronic music, mixed media compositions, and a recording of Stephen Hawkingâ€™s computer-aided voice, together creating a unique sonic landscape corresponding with the span of compressed eons. Zhukovâ€™s Russian-instilled depth of classicism in this contemporary work supports its underlying strength, allowing his poetic images to resound over the span of time covered.
A counterpoint to the state of humankind so tautly and deftly presented by Zhukov was guest choreographer Hlin Diegoâ€™s Caught in the Square. The juxtaposition of a classically feminine theme, the study of fear within oneself, posed a significant shift in focus. From the preceding testosterone-driven evolution of humankind to the self-indulgent seduction of looking at onesâ€™ nature in the mirror for too long, quite a drop occurred. In keeping with the theme, much of the choreographed movement, though skillfully performed, was repetitious to the point of tedium and went nowhere. Caught in a Square is captive to its subject. It remains an apt illustration of inert failure to move forward when consumed by fear.
Zhukov Dance Theatre is a well worth experiencing. The company brings with it well-trained dancers from around the world, Artistic Director Zhukovâ€™s compelling and transforming choreography and the sophisticated talent and dedication of co-founders Millicent Powers and Sandy Lee. To learn more about Zhukov Dance Theatre, visit its website at www.zhukovdance.org.