Encountering a creative voice that grasps me, makes for vibrancy. Words, sounds, images, and assuredly, movement crafted in the right manner, seduce me by their singular vision– voice. Their emphatic affirmations–a right to be heard–draw comparisons to the most powerful of sermons. Like places of God, theaters have always generated a space to deeply engage with creative narratives, making me feel as though I have been invited into a safe place. It’s intoxicating to discover artists–and I count teachers in this mix–that focus my attention with a laser sharp clarity such that the rest of my concerns and problems fall away.
I recall the first time I watched Rosa Montoya perform. She looked leviathan on stage, each graceful gesture spiraling towards the arch of her back and then up to her brow as she revealed flamenco’s passion to me. Patrick Makuakane’s work forever changed my relationship to hula. Watching him dance for the first time, with such depth and soulful clarity, he guided me to the most sublime and sacred place. I was in awe, and star-struck when I first met Anna Halprin. Over the years that reverence has not diminished. Her ability to find the creative potential in the world is without limit, and I continue to feel blessed to watch the work of this visionary genius. Each of these artists exemplifies a unique voice. And while they are one of a kind, they represent only a few of the artists that have provided me with moments I will forever associate with a specific feeling, time, or place.
Sara Shelton Mann is another artist whose voice is instantly recognizable. She gets right to the point. While speaking in a simple and direct manner, there is always a deeper investigation of meaning and insight behind her bright blue eyes and youthful shock of curly hair. Her work can feel as charged as an electrical current ready to bolt towards the audience, a modern yet ancient metaphor for life. Longtime San Francisco Bay Guardian writer Robert Avila talks with Sara about her latest work, The Eye of Horus–to be presented later this month as part of Dancers’ Group’s next ONSITE performances. Avila reveals that Sara’s plainspoken manner is anything but plain. Accompanying Avila’s interview are first person accounts of what it’s like to work with Sara from the performers in the upcoming Horus piece–each provides accolades and reverence of their work with Sara and they too continue the legacy of uniqueness.
Danica Sena, Debby Kajiyama, Takami Craddock and Corrine Nagata are featured this month and continue my theme of artists and teachers who all have something important to say. Sena is this year’s recipient of the Dancers Choice Award, which is bestowed annually on a member of the dance community whose work continues to make substantial impact. Kajiyama is the recipient of the Della Davidson Prize. Only the second year of this award, it is given to a member of the local dance community whose work carries on the ideals that Davidson championed–interdisciplinary work exploring the presence of women, and the lyrical power of dance, image and storytelling. Sena and Kajiyama reflect on the awards by writing first person accounts of their work. Craddock and Nagata are profiled by Mary Carbonara, a local writer, choreographer, teacher and mother (my order of occupations, not hers) in the first of her three part series on how dance educators bring inspiration to their students.
April is also the month to celebrate all dance, in the all-free, all-week call to action that is Bay Area Dance Week. Now in its 16th year, this festival provides hundreds of opportunities to discover new delightful voices that could make you swoon, sway and twizzle.
Go forth, spread the gospel of dance; let the spirits of your preferred creative voices clutch you and enjoy the journey.
This article appeared in the April 2014 issue of In Dance.