Left Coast Leaning @ YBCA [Review]

The Left Coast Leaning performing arts festival, organized by the YBCA in conjunction with Youth Speaks’ Living Word Project, kind of oscillated between the two poles of pure visual enjoyment and entertainment, and perplexing uncomfortableness. On the one hand there was the dazzling spectacle of virtuosic tap dancing by Jason Samuels Smith, on the other there was a strange and brain-taxing performance piece by Anna Martine Whitehead. Between were the three remaining works, which attempted both to entertain the viewers as well as elicit an emotional response. Interestingly enough, all three were about love.

What? Love, you say? The prominence of that theme was a little bit surprising. In the current moment, with the country electrified by Occupy, you might expect to see things that are more political than romantic. But that is not to say that Left Coast Leaning strayed far from the zeitgeist. At least two of the pieces explicitly dealt with love in the contemporary world, and one was a response to fairly recent events–namely, Proposition 8.

Alexandro Segade, Replicant VS Separatist, Pictured: Colin Martin and Justin Streichman. Credit: Scott Groller.

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Dance Party with Yelle at Mezzanine [Review]

Yelle | Dirty Ghosts | Saturday, November 12, 2011 | Mezzanine | San Francisco

Yelle. Photo by Joey Pangilinan.

Some nights when going to a show, you just have this feeling in your stomach that lets you know that the entire night will be this epic, sprawling adventure. Approaching the entrance of the Mezzanine last Saturday night, you could feel the energy just by looking at the line of people still waiting to get inside with the music blaring out the front doors. I felt even more amped up when I entered the venue and saw the crowd of people already inside anxiously awaiting the dancey, electronic-pop sounds of Yelle. By the time my friends and I got inside, Dirty Ghosts was nearing the end of its set. Local to San Francisco, Dirty Ghosts had won a contest to open up for the French-headliners. Although we didn’t get to see much of its set, the band had clearly worked the room into a mood to dance and party.

The sold out show at Mezzanine was originally meant to be the second stop on this month-long tour for Yelle, but unfortunately, due to complications with visas, the tour opener at The Wiltern in Los Angeles had to be rescheduled until a few days after the San Francisco show. Thus, in the last 24-36 hours leading up to the show at Mezzanine, my friends and I were a bit nervous about the possibility of our show having to be postponed as well.

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Catching Up with Reptar [Interview]

Back in October, I wrote a review for indie, dance-rock band Reptar‘s second consecutive show at the Fillmore with Foster the People. After that show, I had the chance to chat with a few of the members outside the venue, and they were kind enough to offer me contact information so that we could set up an interview at a later date. It just so happened that Reptar was coming back to the Fillmore only a few weeks later to play a show with the electronic-indie duo Phantogram, on November 2nd, so I jumped at the chance to get an interview with the up-and-coming band.

Originally, I was scheduled to do a phone interview with Reptar the day of the show, but after a game of phone tag–a succession of failed call attempts on both sides–Reptar keyboardist William Kennedy invited me to come down to the venue for the show. I couldn’t believe my luck!

After meeting up with Kennedy outside of the venue, he rounded up drummer Andrew McFarland, lead singer Graham Ulicny and their behind-the-scenes man/ videographer Ross Brubeck, and we entered the dressing room of the Fillmore for a quick interview. I have to admit: when I first entered the room I had an internal nerd moment and tried to wrap my head around how many rock and roll legends stood in the same spot I was in. That mental relapse aside, my conversation with the guys was like talking to old friends. Like myself, they are all very obvious products of the 1990s.

How is San Francisco treating you so far?

Soo Good. It’s amazing.

Have you had time to see the city?

Yeah the beach! There was a surf competition. We saw Slater kill it! Slater went AWOL. (laughs)

Reptar. Photo courtesy of Tell All Your Friends PR.

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Light Moves: Trip the Light Fantastic [Review]

Despite my snobbish predisposition to scoff at any art form deemed “modern” or “interpretive,” I rather enjoyed myself at the opening night of Margaret Jenkins Dance Company’s newest production Light Moves. The show takes place this weekend only at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) Novellus Theater.

Light Moves, L-R: Heidi Schweiker, Joseph Copley, Margaret Cromwell; Photo Credit: Mark Palmer Artwork: Naomie Kremer, Graphic Design: Gino Squadrito, Lasercom

The press tickets were very close to the stage and right behind the music pit… swanky! The simultaneous play of dance, poetry, music and animated images was set up in an organized way, but I still felt overwhelmed. When I left the theater I felt tired and one thought spun through my mind: “sensory overload.”

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Faustin Linyekula/ Studios Kabako at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts [Review]

For Americans in the 21st Century, the concept of “punk” is unbelievably stale, but in some other parts of the world, not perverted by the whole “suburban mall punk” culture, that word still signifies promise and vitality. Late 1970s punk is what inspired Congolese choreographer Faustin Linyekula to create his new piece More, more, more… future, which was first shown in San Francisco on September 29th at the YBCA. Linyekula and his team, including the prominent guitarist Flamme Kapaya, attempted to combine punk’s scorched-earth approach and political urgency with the culture of ndombolo, based around a very sensual and hedonistic Congolese pop music style.

Photo by Agathe Poupeney.

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Smuin Ballet Fall Season 2011 [Review]

Offering a diverse range of touching pieces, Smuin Ballet’s 2011 Fall Program has an engaging program that upholds the company’s reputation for innovation. The fall season runs from Friday, September 23 to Saturday, October 1 in the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. The 2011 Fall Program contains four pieces, three of which are Smuin classics (Tango Palace, Stabat Mater and Eternal Idol). For me, however, the highlight of the program was definitely the last piece: Choreographer in Residence Amy Seiwert’s world premiere of Dear Miss Cline.

The Smuin Ballet Company in Dear Miss Cline, a world premiere by Amy Seiwert at the Palace of Fine Arts as a part of Smuin Ballet's fall program. Photo by David DeSilva.

Those who aren’t familiar with Smuin Ballet should know first and foremost that this company doesn’t do The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, fluffy tutus or the dizzying fouetté rond de jambe en tournant a la Natalie Portman’s dancing double in The Black Swan – though I have no doubt they could if they wanted to. The company’s founder, Michael Smuin (1938-2007), was a principal dancer, choreographer and theater director, having worked with prestigious ballet companies, on Broadway and in film/television, and his aesthetic represents his cumulative experience. Now under the leadership of Artistic Director Celia Fushille, this company continues to be known for its highly accessible and innovative style, which fuses the technique and grace born of classical ballet with contemporary tropes.

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