An intimate evening: Zhukov Dance Theatre Product 06 at SFJazz

Leigh Donlan reports from SFJazz:

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Rachel Patrice Fallon in Yuri Zhukov’s ENLIGHT (Photo: Sandy Lee)


Passion and curiosity filled the SFJazz Center’s Miner Auditorium on Tuesday night. The new state-of-the-art theater was a perfect choice of venue for Zhukov Dance Theater, intimate, with steeply raked seats surrounding the stage and pitch-perfect acoustics. Product 06 celebrated this San Francisco-based company’s sixth season, composed of two world premières, Enlight, by Artistic Director Yuri Zhukov and Spider on a Mirror, by guest choreographer Idan Sharabi.

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Rachel Patrice Fallon and Chris Bordenave in Yuri Zhukov’s ENLIGHT (Photo: Sandy Lee)

Enlight, Zhukov’s exploration of Enlightenment, was incredibly sensitive in its entirety, in spite of the harshness with which it depicted the modern world’s tumultuous state. Set to a finely mixed score of baroque music and industrial sounds, the first section of the piece began with five dancers – the full company of Rachel Patrice Fallon, Christopher Bordenave, Jeremy Bannon-Neches, Doug Baum and Nick Korkos – moving in and out of nine boxes of light that were softly projected onto the floor. Their yearning and desperation occasioned full body tremors that were soothed by the touch of another, illustrating the triumph of humanity over self-destructive detachment. The last section was a gorgeous mixture of texture and light as the four male dancers maneuvered an enormous white silk sheet about the stage as Fallon was gracefully silhouetted from behind with golden light, like a phoenix risen from the ashes, finding home in the clouds. The virtuosity of the dancers, combined with the careful intelligence of Zhukov’s choreography, left a lasting impression. This was a brief but poignant performance, as Zhukov is skilled in saying just the right amount magnificently.

Chris Bordenave in Idan Sharabi's SPIDER ON A MIRROR (Photo: Sandy Lee)

Chris Bordenave in Idan Sharabi’s SPIDER ON A MIRROR (Photo: Sandy Lee)

Idan Sharabi, an Israeli choreographer and former Nederlands Dans Theater dancer, created a work that was equally appealing but with a closer lens on moment-to-moment behavior in Spider on a Mirror. The piece was inspired by his first visit to San Francisco and his observations of people on the streets, their peculiar form of anxiety and physical reactions to environmental stresses. Sharabi edited his own score, imaginatively combining Nine Inch Nails, Robin Thicke and Scriabin. Dancers roamed the stage making singular gestures that said No: a lowered head, averted eyes, a sunken chest. Halfway through the piece, house lights rose and a dancer began speaking into a microphone, saying “This is not the beginning,” “When I open my mouth, I worry that I’ll become invisible,” and “If you like the way I look, then maybe I won’t have to speak.” The dancers continued to move around him, and his voice was soon drowned out by industrial sounds. The house lights lowered again as Robin Thicke’s Good Girl started playing and the stage became a dance club scene where the movement flaunted trendy MTV moves, proclaiming a fun time, but was still riddled with insecurity and withdrawal from intimate connections. The piece ended with two men dancing together, one mirroring the other, but the intimacy soon shattered, returning them to isolation.

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Yuri Zhukov’s ENLIGHT (Photo: Sandy Lee)

Themes of loneliness and yearning are hot topics in the contemporary dance world right now. However, both Zhukov and Sharabi offered a less dismal interpretation. And they did so through their discerning choices of movement. Both pieces were cohesively honest and unpretentious. The dancing spoke for it itself and was simply enhanced by set and lighting. These are definitely choreographers to keep watching.

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