Our sincere thanks to those who attended our 2016 performances of “Speak, Angels” at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater and the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. Here’s what the SF Chronicle had to say about the show:
Choreographers Garrett and Moulton Prove Their Superiority
By Allan Ulrich
July 29, 2016
Superior dance artists from time to time repeat themselves. However, the best artists evolve, refining and extending their stylistic parameters. In Janice Garrett and Charles Moulton’s “Speak, Angels,” given its world premiere Thursday, July 28, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, there is much to remind one of “The Luminous Edge,” their last collaboration two years ago. But there is also much to surprise and delight in the 65-minute opus.
Again, Garrett and Moulton have surrounded their six solo dancers with a “movement choir,” 18 barefoot performers propped on bleachers, moving arms and torsos in unison. Again, the choreographers have recruited a large complement of onstage instrumentalists and singers. Again, the musical scores range from Mahler songs to neo-minimalist effusions.
Thirty-six bodies on the YBCA Theater stage might, in the hands of most choreographers, summon images of BART at rush hour. But this team knows everything about spacing and timing. For much of Thursday’s performance, the choreographers brought the choir down from their perch, clad them all in vivid blue and wove them into the texture of the work.
At moments, the squads of women, trailing the principals, suggest something mythic — furies or muses. At other times, they function formally as participants in great unisons. Large groups tote the dancers above the heads across the stage. Back at their bleachers, they elevate their colleagues in impressive tableaux. And there’s one wonderful image of dancers Nol Simonse and Vivian Aragon poised on the bleachers amid a sea of wafting arms; they might be in a wheat field in August.
Garrett and Moulton have honed the choir’s performances, and their speed and fluidity is a pleasure in itself. But when combined with the contributions of the fine principal dancers (who also include Carolina Czechowska, Michael Galloway and newcomers Alison Adnet andRyan Wang), they create the tension essential for “Speak, Angels.”
The six meet in pairs and then in a group and, as lit by Allen Willner, their interchanges are swift, direct and beautifully balanced. Arms reach, legs jut, and the mood is generally exuberant, as bodies dash in from the wings and after their moment in the spotlight dash away. The episodic structure is troubling, although the final tableau is satisfying and imaginative.
The musicality of “Speak, Angels” elevates the piece beyond the norm. A seven-member ensemble, led by music director Jonathan Russell, delivers two dozen passages, composed by Mahler, Russell, Marc Mellits and Elena Kats-Chernin. In other hands, it would all seem disjointed. Not here. The choreographers have demonstrated an affinity for Mahler in the past. Here, affinity evolves into a deep emotional relationship.
As sung soulfully by contralto Karen Clark, the Mahler (excerpts from the “Rückert Lieder’) provides the still points. Aragon transforms “Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft” into a wondrous pantheistic soliloquy. Czechowska, a tall dancer of tremendous expressive power, converts the valedictory import of “Ich bin der Welt” into an epic struggle against the inevitable. I haven’t seen a finer modern dance solo in months.
Other Reviews and Articles about the Show: