|Spinning Yarns Dance
By Adele Chavez
You can hear and see all kinds of stories in the Mission District, but few will be as entertaining or as visually appealing as the ones from Spinning Yarns Dance Collective. Currently performing Ongoing Journeys in Still Places at the ODC Theater, the company spins their yarns in dance, music and storytelling, creating a unique evening of art.
Spinning Yarns is led by dancer and choreographer Susan Donham. For this program, she is joined by dancers Charlotte Mayang, Kelly Kemp and Kate Joyce along with storytellers Jeanne Haynes and Marijo, and composers Annick Crawford and Perry Spinali, whose music sets a quiet, dreamy pre-show mood. The first piece, â€śPortraits,â€ť was the weakest set. Attempting to tell complicated and specific stories, the choreography became melodramatic. The dancers were deeply involved, and watching their faces was more interesting than the dance, particularly for the mesmerizing, lively expressions of Mayang. The costumes, the only ones of the evening not by James Meyer, were not particularly body flattering and distracting.
Next, Jeanne Hayes gave an excerpt from â€śThe Stove is White,â€ť an account of her experiences as the single birth-mother of a biracial child. The story is fascinating and deeply personal, but Hayesâ€™ storytelling made it even more compelling. Presenting clearly with elegant gestures and a warm, intimate voice, she held the audience spellbound.
â€śTraveling Companions,â€ť the next dance piece, was very good. Using the biblical story of Ruth, the dancers journeyed and retreated, joined and left each other. At first, you wondered â€śWhich one is Ruth?â€ť and then, as intended, you realized that at times, each one is Ruth, Orpah, or Naomi; the wanderer, the abandoner or the companion. I particularly enjoyed the beautiful arm work of dancer Kelly Kemp. This piece was only marred by the erratic sound engineer, who at times seemed to feel we needed waking up, and the insecure (recorded) singing of Jennifer Gwirtz. Annick Crawfordâ€™s music itself was very good and supported the danceâ€™s concept nicely.
After an intermission with more Spinali, the dance â€śâ€¦the mermaids singing, each to eachâ€ť was performed. This was the most purely entertaining piece of the evening; playful, sensual and flirtatious. The costumes for this piece were outstanding, evoking a seaside mood with Bali-print dresses, rather that trying for a literal depiction of a fishtail. Composer Spinali played the violin onstage as part of the performance; the music was as enjoyable as the dance. While all of the dancers are excellent, with an obvious command of both ballet and modern technique, the standout dancer in this set, as well as most of the rest of the evening, was Kate Joyce. Her security of technique and panache were a joy to watch.
The second storyteller, Marijo, told â€śFishtails: Mermaids who Love too Much,â€ť a nice tie-in. The story was clever, featuring an Afro-Caribbean mermaid; but the moral of loving yourself before others can love you was rather forcibly tacked onto the story. Marijoâ€™s delivery was vibrant and entertaining, except for a bad habit of beginning a sentence and then correcting herself. A more secure delivery would allow the story to flow.
â€śRedbuds and Waterfallsâ€ť wrapped up the evening in a beautiful bow. With dynamic choreography, gorgeously simple costumes, and a score that made me want to run out and buy the album, this piece simply shone. Ongoing Journeys is about internal and external travels, especially those of strong women. For an evening of entertaining stories and beautiful visuals, you canâ€™t do better. I hope to see and hear other stories from this company soon. Â
Spinning Yarns will present Ongoing Journeys in Still Places March 9 and 10 at the ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., SF. Tickets ($7 to $15) are available by calling (415) 863-9834, or on the web at www.odctheater.org or at the box office.