Talk about a fixer upper. Once a dilapidated Texaco gas station, You Are Here is now a gleaming mixed-use-creative space on 25th Street in Golden Hill. Sculptural metal curls and bright red panels hang from an open stairway. You can pick out remnants of the pump island and starred logos, but it’s an architectural orchid. Years ago I pulled in there to fill up with gas. Last night I stopped in to fill up with new dance and talent, and some of it was high-octane.
“The PGK Dance Project is an experiment,” said artistic director Peter Kalivas, “and in ‘San Diego Dances’ we bring dance to the people by partnering with unusual spaces like this one. Hey, there’s a guy behind you getting his hair cut!”
Seven dances were presented in the large court yard. Two choreographed by Kalivas were driven by musical impulses.
In Tabla, dancers Nguyen Bui and John Paul Lawson came out kicking and swinging like street fighters. A few turns had some wobbles, but once their nerves settled down they grew stronger. Tabla are small drums, but we heard music by Les Tambours du Bronx, a group known for having more than a dozen drums and breaking them. That score rattled the rafters and was an excellent piece to open the show, but I was wishing for more muscled bodies, a whole gang of men to emerge from the sides.
Stifling, a solo for Heather Dale Wentworth, let viewers see what happens when you hold your anger inside too long. She cupped her hands behind her back as if struggling to keep a dark secret. At times she kicked to the side and tapped her feet like a horse when penned up too long. Music by Helga Pogatschor, who is German, added to the turmoil of not being understood. I’d love to know what she was singing about. In the end, a smoldering Wentworth crawled out of sight, a potent and efficient way of exiting a space that had no curtain.
Dancing in unusual places is a logistical challenge. Nobody wants to dance on rough concrete. Bravo to Kalivas for taking an extra step. He travels with a portable floor that floats above the concrete.
“We rent it at a ‘friends’ price,” he says. “I knew I’d need the floor for this one. I want the dancers to be safe, and I don’t want the audience to be distracted and concerned about the dancers.”
That raised floor got a good workout during No Exit, Anjanett Maraya-Ramey’s dark love triangle dance that includes a heavy door and old loveseat. The dance was a hit at Diversionary a few years ago as part of a program to reinterpret LBGT theater scripts into engaging dances for a broad audience. Here the energy was just as eerie and dysfunctional. The women, Desiree Cuizon and Viviana Alcazar, and a man (Nguyen Bui) arrived in hell, and we got to watch the evil unfold. They fought over the symbolic door, stepping through it and locking someone out. Their bodies were rigid and expressions devilish. The door slamming made us jump and worry about finger pinching. Black dresses and suspenders planted them in the past, perhaps while mourning a death. It was hard to know who lusted after whom, or if they were just playing creepy mind games. They yanked each other off the loveseat and traded places but three was a crowd, for eternity.
Teetering, a group piece by Michael Nickerson-Rossi, combined the soft sounds of piano and muslin fabrics. Four dancers swirled their skirts with strong upper bodies but seemed wounded, a foot twisted under them. Fabric at their torsos began to look like bandages, especially for the guy. Let’s rethink that costume for him. They reached upward with fingers splayed, but I longed for more energy, sparks shooting out of those fingers.
The piece builds to a chilling climax, and nobody could keep their eyes off Ms. Cuizon. She kept pace with the rigorous movement from rolling yoga bellies on the floor to jack-rabbit rebounds to the side. She has wonderful freedom in her neck and musicality. In this dance and others on the program, she consistently stretched the movement just a bit more then snapped into the next phrase.
The premiere of Deluge, was a good programming choice for this casual dance setting. Choreographed by the gifted Khamla Somphanh, the dance is smartly constructed and layered, yet easy and exciting to watch. Dancers stretched outward as if praying for rain but were quickly swept up in a deluge. Arms pulled the bodies inward but an invisible force caused them to spiral outward, as if forced down a raging river. Costumes were black and white tunics, half and half, one of many hints that we all need to slow down and find balance in work and life. After surviving the torrent, the group gathered together and stopped to stare out into the crowd and breathe, a strong message and image. Corizon was fearless in a lift rolling up and over the back of Lawson, and her head an eyelash from the floor.
Inter-Nocturne was originally created by Geoffrey Gonzalez and performed by City Ballet of San Diego in Nov. 2013. Gonzalez’s career includes touring with the Bad Boys of Dance as well as dancing the leads in City Ballet’s productions (most recently Apollo in Balanchine Masterworks). For the portable floor at You Are Here, he made a smaller version of Inter-Nocturne, cutting the ensemble from six women and four men to three and two. He kept the black net costuming, which has an S&M vibe, and gorgeous ballet feet. Not all of the dancers could keep up with his demanding style. His vocabulary puts jazz, pirouettes and cat-like pouncing in a blender. The strength of the piece was keeping the men and women separated till the very end.
San Diego Dances closed with Butt Rock, a gritty rock-n-roll dance by Donna Scro that transformed the space into a 1980s road house. “Hey, give me a Bud and a pack of smokes!” Well they didn’t say that, but they could have. Men and women dressed in jeans and T-shirts with the names of various musicians screened on the front – and cut up with scissors for no reason – jumped around with wild bar fly charm. A few dancers had trouble with the fast tempo and quick pique turns. But Cuizon was a joy to watch, especially in circle turns over the arm of the dashing Mr. Lawson. They are two premium dancers to watch. The dance wasn’t packed with drama or questions to work out, but was instead just good ‘ol fun, which was the focus of the program.
The PGK Project’s San Diego Dances, at You Are Here in Golden Hill continues tonight at 7:30 pm. www.ThePGKDanceProject.org