Hitting the rails with "Trolley Dances"
"Trolley Dances," as a friend pointed out, really is a misnomer, at least when applied here: San Francisco's rail-bound transportation is either on streetcar lines or the underground BART tracks. But "Trolley Dances," which returned this year for the third time and presented four dance companies in four different venues, gets its name from San Diego, where trolley cars do exist. In Northern California the free event is produced by Kim Epifano's Epiphany Productions. These relaxed performances are a hit for tourists as well as locals, and they both turned out in respectable numbers — between 60 and 100 at any one station — on the morning of Oct. 20. It was quite a splendid way to spend two balmy mid-October hours in the sun.
If I may nitpick for a moment: those who expected to ride from one performance to the next were happy only if they had walking shoes on. Two of the four locations were reached on foot (at a pretty clipped pace for some of the elderly audience members), and the rest were accessible by Muni, which — surprise, surprise — kept everyone waiting a good 20 minutes. No wonder some lost patience and hoofed it elsewhere. I am not a fan of walking behind a leader hoisting a placard ahead of me, but if I hadn’t done just that, I might never have found my way into the impressively spacious Spear Tower Atrium of One Market Street, site of Yannis Adoniou's In the Crowd.
With his own Kunst-Stoff dancers Kara Davis and Julian DeLeon in red jumpsuits and 22 dancers from the Lines Repertory Ensemble in black leotards and tops, Adoniou and his crew looked quite at home amid these elegant environs. He took his inspiration from the central aluminum-rod sculpture, arranging his dancers stelalike around it. It was good to see him work with a large ensemble, giving the dancers relatively simple but nicely varied patterns that billowed and contracted to good effect. The excellently paired Davis and DeLeon were the wanderers in this crowd: alone and together, supportive of and indifferent to each other. Carey Lambrecht set the mood — at times quite melancholic — with her solo violin.
Next stop was Janice Garrett and Charles Moulton's Tzigane, in front of 50 California Street. Tanya Bello, Jennifer Bishop-Orsulak, Nol Simonse, and the multitalented Heidi Schweiker romped through precision dances suggested by the loony music of the Fanfare Ciocarlia, which sounded like a military band that had plopped into a circus. Set tightly to the score, the piece — with performers all in black, including berets — had a bouncy, folk dance quality. Dancers took the lead in setting patterns, splitting courting couples, playing around with hand signals, and bouncing off each other and the surrounding flower boxes. At Tzigane's core as a reluctantly shy ballerina, Schweiker was coaxed into taking the stage, accompanied by some grandmotherly wailing on the soundtrack.
Next, Seawall: Beneath the Surface, by Facing East Dance and Music, was performed against a glorious view of the bay and anchored boats on Pier 38. With the excellent Vijay Anderson on traps, a sextet of women engaged in fairly conventional partnering and ensemble moves. Seawall's most intriguing parts came from the juxtaposition of the quintet's sometimes feverish activity with Rae Chung's stillness and her ability to place martial arts–like moves with exceptionally directed focus.
Finally, the singer-dancers in Epifano's Love in Transfer, at the Fourth Street Caltrain Station, may have looked like down-and-out travelers, but their folk music–inspired celebration of community and love "for as long as it lasts" suggested a robustly joyous celebration of community. SFBG