Review: Bodysonnet neverover – July 23
An outing to see a new performance company at a new-to-me venue is irresistible. And so it was with excitement that I made a reservation to attend Bodysonnet’s West Coast premiere presentation, neverover, at Tiny Boxes Theater.
The performance space was in a warehouse in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco. There was a clandestine feel to the arrival process. First, one decoded the warehouse call system and announced one’s arrival. Once admitted through a side door a la a speakeasy, one climbed several flights of metal stairs before arriving in starkly lit white hallways well-labeled with bright green arrows that lead the way, eventually, to the “theatre.” Lit in purples and pinks the room had a bar near the entrance and a slightly raised sprung floor at the other end. Audience seating was created by an assortment of chairs facing the stage, as well as in a single line onstage along the sides. From my stage seat, looking back toward the entrance I noticed that the ceiling was the storage area for the venue. There was a clump of twenty-plus chairs dangling from the rafters next to the top of a trampoline all bathed in a lavender haze. Our hosts for the evening were casual and welcoming. BODYSONNET’s website says they are “committed to making work in non-traditional spaces,” and this space definitely fit the bill.
The salon-like evening was composed of three distinct works with the charming addition of an emcee to frame the work. There was a freshness to the whole experience. The goal of the evening was to explore youth, celebrate queerness, and examine “what it means to be present in chaos.” Audience members who quibble with a late start, or “five-minute” breaks that extend for twenty, would be advised to enjoy the company of those around them and relax.
Photo by Jen Norris of Randy Donovan, Mia Chong, Shaharla Vetsch at company bows
MC Randy Donovan with long black hair under a tall fedora, was dressed in a black cut-out shirt with chest harness, over a pleated skirt, textured hose and sparkly stiletto heels as he took centerstage. Introducing himself as Pilipino, Hawaiian and Native American, he told us about coming out to his father, the school wrestling coach. He held a tablet throughout his remarks ensuring he shared everything he meant to while communicating the importance of his story and his preparation.
X-dance created and performed by Moscelyne ParkeHarrison was most memorable for the spoken word score she created using only words and phrases from the many rejection emails she had received over the years. ParkeHarrison dressed in a black chiffon tunic over full black pants and demure heels, gazed for a time into a large red X on the wall. She then curtsied and began her dance, hand-to-heart, striking poses, as we heard phrases like “please know how difficult” or “given serious consideration.” She moved in a measured and controlled way, until she removed her heels and threw them into a corner. As the speed of the voiceover quickened the movement became more frantic. She moved from a deep backbend on the floor to high kicks or graceful turns, demonstrating a wide range of skills, while the voice continued with “this decision was not easy” or “please understand the volume.” She twirled across the floor on tiptoes and moved easily from a deep plie to a leg lift, her defiance palpable until finally a somberness set in as she gathered her shoes, took one more look at the red X on the wall, and stated “lights out.”
After a break and another charming story from Donovan, two tall willowy dancers took the stage to perform A Flame in the Light, a duet about falling in love and staying in love. The performers, David Calhoun and Colin Frederic, were costumed in matching pant suits of soft ribbed ivory by Trey Alexander. The choreography by Frederic had an elegance and an intimacy to it, taking advantage of the dancers’ real-life partnership. They moved well together whether during complicated unison sequences, tender mirroring sections or in a lift where one carried the other upright, facing out, against his chest. There were stolen kisses and knowing smiles amidst the dancing. Their final exit was made with their arms around each other’s waists. weaving their legs in front of the other for several steps before pivoting and resuming with the other leading, a beautiful metaphor for working together.
The final piece, performed and created by Alexandra Carrington, Alli Li, Jaime Serra dos Santos, and Saharla Vetsch, with choreography by Mia Chong, was more confessional theater than dance. The form was unsophisticated but effective in its honesty and rawness. Two queer couples, each including one dancer and one non-dancer, told us the story of their meeting. They relied heavily on verbal storytelling, with snippets of dance which lacked the impact of the words. It was great to hear and see the normalization of trans lives in this young generation of queer folks. Despite all the progress that has been made in bringing LGBTQ narratives out of the closet, there is still real power in being seen. The acceptance of one’s community and family is sadly still far from a foregone conclusion. I felt fortunate to be able to be witness to these young artists’ tales and authentic selves.
Review by Jen Norris July 26, 2022
Full program here: https://www.bodysonnet.org/neverover