Kara Davis and Sarah Jo Zaharako merge music and dance in "Symbiosis"
DANCE There's no question that dance and music live and breathe together. Anyone who has been moved to motion by a rhythmic beat or catchy melody can attest to that. Yet where the two art forms intersect and drive each others' creative process is often harder to pin down, for they exist both independently and interdependently.
Like their respective art forms, choreographer Kara Davis and composer Sarah Jo Zaharako of Gojogo inspire and influence each other. Part of Dance Mission Theater's Down and Dirty series, their recent performance "Symbiosis: An Evening of Music & Dance" (July 11) not only marked five years of collaboration and creative dialogue, but proved to be a stunning display of talented dancers and musicians.
The first half of the evening featured Davis' dance company project agora, opening with Davis' 2009 piece A Softened Law. It began with a line of dancers walking away from and yet always returning to a bright light in front of them, as if in prayer. When one dancer broke away from the repetitive and confined ebb and flow of the group, her series of expansive steps summoned a sense of freedom emerging from confinement. Under beams of gold light, the dancers — dressed in desert-toned hues — ran, leapt, and fell to the floor with passionate intensity and athletic agility. Ethereal yet grounded, Davis' choreography flowed like a cool stream through a desert.
Because every step seamlessly initiated the next, Davis' movement style never felt forced. This was particularly true in One Tuesday Afternoon (2008), where the dancers entered and exited the stage in interweaving duets. While the project agora dancers embody the spirit of Davis' choreography, there is something extra special about watching Davis perform her own work. In the romantic duet Exit Wound (2006) — the first piece Davis and Zaharako created together — she and Nol Simonse graced the stage with captivating rapport. Whether swaying through simple waltz-like steps or intricate entangled arms, they never lost sight of each other. Zaharako and bassist Eric Perney were equally involved in the intimate duet. The warm violin parts of Zaharako's composition fueled the couple's dancing as much as their dancing seemed to fuel the music.
It was fitting that Davis ended the dancing part of the evening with the world premiere of her most recent collaboration with Zaharako, Symbiosis. Dancing with an awareness of Zaharako and her ensemble and incorporating elements of improvisation, Davis made the solo feel more like an exploration than a formulation. Each of her gestures, whether slowly moving her hand to her chin or stretching her white shirt overhead like a veil, implied a weighty yet inexplicable significance. Through their navigation of the parameters of dance and music, Davis and Zaharako brought the potential beauty of symbiosis to life.