A twentieth anniversary is an auspicious occasion for a contemporary dance company. Garrett + Moulton Productions (GMP) took this moment to look toward the future and to reflect on the past as they returned to live performance at the ODC Theater, the site of Janice Garrett & Dancers inaugural performance in 2002.
Abundant, rich, and generous, there was so much to celebrate in this presentation. Eighteen dancers, a chamber orchestra, a bit of Moulton’s signature ball-passing and a film-screening created a dynamic experience. The enthusiastic energy of a full-house of viewers provided the final element of this memorable evening.
THRENODY, a world premiere choreographed by Garrett, featured the five GMP “company dancers.” Threnody means “a song of lamentation for the dead.” Great threnodies exist in many genres from music, to poetry and prose. This elegy, created using dance, was performed to a selection of Baroque songs. Some songs included the sonorous emotive singing of contralto Karen Clark.
The dancers were clad in black evening wear, cocktail length dresses on the women, and pants and shirts for the men. Costumer Julienne Weston’s use of patterned sheer materials added elegance to the affair and allowed the garments to flow beautifully.
The sense of longing was palpable as the performers spread their arms wide, their chests and faces skyward. They pleaded for a different outcome, before accepting the weight of their loss with an exhalation and a contraction inward. Moving in tandem often, the dancers maintained their humanity and individuality. Juliann Witt’s supple back arched into the arms of the others. While Jenna Marie dove forward only to be caught and drawn safely back to the group. Nol Simonse’s grief was writ large on his expressive face. We felt his pain and frustration as he brought his palms over his face before sliding them down to his chest and over his heart. Garret used the music’s tempo changes to great effect. The dance had a lovely buoyancy despite its focus on loss. There was a sense of the universal experience of grief and the power of community to support individuals. The middle of the evening was reserved for the animated short film, ANGRY BEAR, with direction, drawings, and lyrics by Charles Moulton; design and animation by Olivia Tang, and music by Christopher Benstead. It began with the statement “all my life I’ve felt like I was being chased by a small angry bear.” As a voice spoke these words, the phrases were written out in large cartoonish letters, against an ever-changing background of brightly colored patterns. There were references to Moulton’s life as a dancer with Merce Cunningham. One line which got a laugh referenced “John Cage playing music that sounds like a hardware store.” The film balanced whimsy with wisdom. Illustrations of a man with blue feet, and a crab claw for a hand, filled the screen as we reflected on the concept that if “nothing has to mean anything”, then “everything is beautiful”. There was a poignant song about the importance of friends, and a poem about an “angry bear sitting in the basement in his underwear, nothing left to chase or scare”. The final images were of line drawings of bears flying through the air in tutus. ANGRY BEAR was entertaining and engrossing throughout and will get richer with multiple viewings. After intermission the five company dancers were joined by thirteen guest artists to perform ROLL OUT a work which premiered in 2019 at the JCCSF. The piece began with a movement chorus. Seated six-to-a-row, shoulder-to-shoulder in three tiers, the dancers’ gestured broadly in unison, a ball in each hand. The speed and coordination of their movements was breathtaking. They reached up to the left, then down to the right, moving as a single unified multi-limbed creature. Trios formed as they passed the balls back and forth in increasingly complicated patterns with mesmerizing accuracy. The ball passing section yielded to fast-paced athletic dancing in groupings both large and small which used the full stage. Surprises abounded, an octet of runners became a thrilling quartet of synchronized twirls and leaps. The stage filled with many dancers dashing in and out of each other. The front row patrons tucked in their feet in order to stay out of the fray. The frenetic nature and confined space of ROLL OUT left me exhausted. Though the pure joy of so many bodies moving together was tangible and exciting, I longed for more of the satisfyingly hypnotic quality of the communal act of ball-passing. Review by Jen Norris published October 9, 2022
Garrett + Moulton Productions
20th Anniversary Program
At ODC Theater, San Francisco, CA 94110
October 6 – 9, 2022 at 7:30 p.m.
Garrett + Moulton Productions celebrates its 20th anniversary October 6-9 with the world premieres of a new work by Janice Garrett and an animated film by Charles Moulton. In addition, the company of 18 dancers and 6 musicians will perform a theatricalized version of Garrett’s Roll Out, which premiered in the Fall of 2021 at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. Music will be performed live with conductor Jonathan Russell, long-time Garrett + Moulton collaborator, contralto Karen Clark and six instrumentalists. Performances will be given Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October 6, 7 and 8, at 7:30 pm and a matinee Sunday, October 9, at 3 pm.
Jenna Marie Graves,
Roll Out guest dancers: Corey Brady, Jessica DeFranco, Sarah Emmons, Claire Fisher, Colin Frederick, Emily Hansel, Olivia Holston, Erik Lee, Marlayna Locklear, Nicole Maimon, Chelsea Mulholland, Jordan Wanderer and Alice Wells.
Kate Campbell, Piano
Yuri Kye, Violin
Samuel Nelson, Viola
Rick Shinozaki, Violin
Jonathan Russell, Clarinet
Erin Wang, Cello