I am writing from a cozy living room in Los Altos, California, visiting with my husband’s family. A fire is burning in the fireplace, the sky is dark with storm clouds, and it is raining again. It feels very-much like a winter day even though the days are slowly get longer and the trees are blossoming. They are welcome reminders: spring is coming!
Spring is a time for lightness and life, a chance to be reminded of the resilience of nature. To breathe fresh air, literally and figuratively. For me, as a dance-goer, this means one thing: seeing dance outdoors!
Getting outside of a theater loosens the expectations that have been formed over the centuries of concert dance, whose classic darkness, forward-facing attention, and a quiet audience offer a chance to get absorbed into a work. While it can seem like magic to lose yourself in a theatrical experience, seeing dance outdoors can flip that magic. Instead of removing dance from the context of environmental noises, sounds, and smells, outdoor dance offers an opportunity to experience that environment in a different frame of mind, altering perceptions of the everyday.
For instance, when Dancers’ Group worked with Jo Kreiter to produce Niagara Falling (2012), an aerial performance on the side of a building on Market Street near the Tenderloin in San Francisco, a block I had seen countless times was transformed by a new experience of it. I suddenly needed to look up to notice the intricacies of the architecture, the color of the buildings, the locals wandering by. On page 4, you can read an interview between Sima Belmar and Kreiter about her latest outdoor work, The Wait Room, delving into the experiences of women with incarcerated loved ones.
While the themes and structure of outdoor performances are as varied as inside, they often allow for greater audience flexibility. This flexibility – such as being able to arrive late, leave early, walk around, eat and drink – lower perceptual barriers to experiencing dance. As the parent of a squirmy toddler, a more open structure is vital to providing my daughter welcoming art experiences that can take place without judgement and at the pace of her attention span.
Opportunities abound to see dance in and out-of-doors throughout the spring, summer, and fall, but this April brings a concentration, all during the 21st annual Bay Area Dance Week. The Festival, which runs April 26-May 5, is a dance-is-everywhere event, where Bay Area artists and organizations provide free events for all to enjoy. On the next page you can find a sampling of those activities – from classes to workshops to performances – including a number of events outside. Some highlights include the Festival kick-off at Yerba Buena Gardens at noon on April 26, sjDANCEco’s Spring Dance Festival, Brava! Women for the Arts’ annual Baile en la Caile, and Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana/MACLA’s Family Art Day.
After years of extended drought, this winter’s rains brought California’s reservoirs back at or above historic averages. This Spring the grass will be green; the air will be fresh. Take off your galoshes, grab a picnic blanket, a snack, and some clothes to move in, and feel the energy that our region’s dance communities have to offer.
May this Spring be a chance to see dance through a child’s eyes, to look up and notice what’s around us, and serve as a reminder, not only of the resilience of nature, but of our own resilience as well.