Does Beauty Ravish You?

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by Amanda Witherell

Did it ravish you, compel you, confuse you last night on the corner of 24th and Mission? That's what a 20x30 foot red banner, spontaneously unfurled around 8 pm from the rooftop of "Chinese Food and Donuts," was asking of many a surprised Mission hipster and inspiring the itinerant BART station population to look up and wonder why? As if the banner's inquisitiions weren't intriguing enough, the billboard, as dancer Jo Kreiter and Flyaway Productions are calling it, was merely an artful backdrop for an elegant aerial dance performance. Three dancers in boxes, suspended in front of the billboard, came alive like portraits caught in frames, pushing the edges of their tight parameters and the safety of their harnesses. A fourth woman, clad in shimmering red, lurched from the rooftop above the swinging frames, with graceful, raging footwork that oscillated between acquiescence and a suicide attempt. And I'd just been trying to figure out how to show my mother, visiting our dear city for the first time, that San Francisco is so much more than Fisherman's Wharf...

The show is the first public Flyaway production since 2002, and is called the Live Billboard Project. It was conceived by Kreiter when she was driving home one day and the Top Model billboard at the intersection of Mission and 280 caught her eye. "Sequined and stripped down, they were spilling out of the garish billboard," she wrote about the Top Models in a flyer advertising her show. "All hips, ass and titillation. Despite 40 years since The Feminine Mystique, despite the Guerilla Girls, and despite the activism of so many fed up women, the objectification of women's bodies in public space persists."

The free, live show premiered on Wednesday night, and ran through the weekend. It was lightly advertised because, as one organizer told me, they like the element of surprise to play a part in the experience. Don't be sad -- you didn't totally miss it. Another round is set for this Thursday, October 12 through Saturday, October 14, with shows at 8 pm and 9:30. Schedule your BART traveling accordingly for this must-see.