Dancers without borders - Page 2

San Francisco International Arts Festival thinks locally, acts globally

In 2005 (there was no 2004 festival), the festival showcased extraordinary performances from the AKHE Group (Russia); Fabrik Companie (Germany); Manasku no Kai (Japan); and — one of the wildest of them all — the Moe!kestra, from Manteca.

A focus of SFIAF has become fostering international collaborations that make local artists into journeymen citizens of the world. "We need to support artists here but they also need to realize that there are opportunities somewhere else," Wood said.

This process of cross-fertilization started in 2006 and continued in 2007, when the festival highlighted art from Latin America and the African diaspora. Since the city has yet to commit to any direct funding — Wood called local arts leadership "miserable and petty" — he has become a wizard at patching his budget together, creating cosponsorships, acting as an umbrella organization, and linking artists with individual funding sources. He also has become adept at handling the Department of Homeland Security's onerous (and expensive) visa process for performers. "They all have visas!" he exclaimed.

A monthlong visual arts exhibit loaned SFIAF 2008 its name: "What Goes Around ... The Truth in Knowing/Now." This year's fest kicks off Wednesday, May 21, and runs until June 8, when it will be capped with a free Yerba Buena Gardens concert by the Omar Sosa Afreecanos Quartet, with local Latin percussionist John Santos.


The festival also includes operatic and theater pieces, as well as choreographers whose work might not be seen locally if not for SFIAF. For example, SFIAF enabled Idris Ackamoor, co-artistic director of Cultural Odyssey, to bring Brazilian dancer-choreographer Cristina Moura to San Francisco. "I was struck by her innovative movements," said Ackamoor, who encountered Moura while scouting for the National Performance Network's Performing Americas Project, which he co-curated. "She moves like no one else, with a pedestrian and a highly physical vocabulary. She also has a unique way about storytelling." Moura's solo like an idiot (2007) also resonated with him, as did the title. "Isn't that the way we all sometimes feel?" he said, speaking of the work, which holds its California premiere at SFIAF.

Wood caught Shlomit Fundaminsky's emblematic SkidMarks at the 2006 Dublin Fringe Festival and this year SFIAF is copresenting it with SF's Israel Center. Speaking from Tel Aviv, Fundaminsky describes the work, a duet for herself and Gyula Csakvari, as inspired by "the home life of a man and a woman who live so close to each other — really as one person — that they lost their ability to communicate. They are creating this box for themselves and are unable to break out of it."

The Kate Foley Dance Ensemble may be familiar to Bay Area audiences because of Foley's 10-year local performance history. In 1998 she moved to Croatia, where she is in residence at a newly constructed arts center. When Wood sent out a call for SFIAF participant proposals, John Daly of the Croatian American Cultural Center suggested her. Yet the Oakland-born Foley's homecoming has not been without pain. "I have been so ashamed of what I have had to put my dancers through for the visa process," she said on the phone from Rijeka, Croatia. Her US premiere, Angels of Suderac, is a dance theater work using modern dance and what she calls "reconceived" folkloric material. The piece is based on her research into shamanistic practices that connect fairies and herbal medicine women.

By contrast, new to the Bay Area is the young AscenDance Project, which formed in 2006. German-born director Isabel von Rittberg joined Dancers' Group when she moved to San Francisco, where she heard about SFIAF.

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