On Saturday, abby jean, Annaham, and I went to see AXIS Dance Company, an integrated dance company based in the Bay Area, perform at the Yerba Buena Arts Festival in San Francisco. After some misadventures (namely us climbing way too many stairs because we went to the wrong place first), we managed to find the performance and settle down to watch.
The regular company was supplemented by other dancers, for a group of what looked like around 35 people performing a piece specifically choreographed for the Yerba Buena Gardens space. It’s an interesting space because there are all sorts of ramps and levels and things, and these were all integrated into the piece. One of the dancers told me after the performance that one of the things that made the space challenging was the concrete, which was really uneven. Visually, though, the space was really stunning, with a pouring waterfall as a backdrop for the dancers and the ability to perform on different levels, having dancers both on the main stage area and on the balconies above.
Occasionally passersby would meander through the piece, some looking deeply confused. The whole dance had a very organic, flowing feel, and I loved watching all of these individuals and bodies moving in all kinds of interesting and different ways.
I am not a modern dance critic, or particularly well versed in dance in general. Usually I look at things and go ‘oooh that’s nice’ or ‘hrm.’ I really loved the AXIS piece, though. I felt like it really played to the strengths of the dancers as individuals, highlighting them as human beings rather than presenting them as an amorphous mass of interchangeable people, which is sometimes how I feel with highly regimented choreography where everyone moves in precisely the same way. The piece had character and it sparked some thoughts in me about interconnectivity, interdependence, and community.
There was an element of play to the piece, with dancers and bystanders alike darting about in the space, and at the end of the piece, everyone locomoted to the far end of the performance area and flopped over, which I rather loved. Hey, dancing is hard work! Dancers were also waving and interacting with the audience, which was a bit of a departure from audience environments I am used to where you are expected to sit quietly and watch, not moving or expressing anything until the piece is over.
AXIS is about to go on tour, and if you happen to be in or around Bates, Maine; Seattle, Washington; or Lincoln, Nebraska, I would highly recommend seeing one of their performances. They return to the Bay Area in November and I suspect I’ll be going again. I think I may be on the verge of becoming an integrated dance groupie.
It was also, if I may gush for a moment, supercool to get an opportunity to meet some of the dancers afterwards and talk with them about their work and their projects. I live in a pretty isolated area, and being able to bask in the Bay Area disability community for a day was really wonderful; the performance and the conversations I had afterwards sparked some reevaluations and thoughts about how I want to structure my own life and work.