Partly cloudy

Pub date September 30, 2009
SectionArts & CultureSectionDance

DANCE REVIEW In December 2007, a preview of the first section of Margaret Jenkins Dance Company’s Other Suns (a Trilogy) raised high hopes. Unfortunately, the 80-minute triptych, which premiered Sept, 24-26 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and is scheduled for a four-city national tour, did not quite fulfill them.

Jenkins paired her own company of eight with six dancers from China’s Guangdong Modern Dance Company. She also invited guest artists Amy Foley and Norma Fong from Robert Moses’ Kin Dance Company. To work with so many magnificent dancers and strong personalities must have been glorious and grueling, even for a choreographer as experienced as Jenkins. For the audience, much of it was pure bliss, particularly once the Chinese dancers came more fully into their own.

Jenkins slightly revised part of the piece, with Foley taking over from Melanie Elms the role as the instigator. Gone also is Alex V. Nichols’ mysterious pool but the seas of low-hanging lights stayed. Suns encountered its major stumbling block in the second movement for which Jenkins — whose dancers always collaborate on the choreography — deployed the elegantly pliant Guangdong dancers in canons and unisons. Visually and kinetically weak, it undermined Suns‘ trajectory; the third movement should have been a culmination of what preceded. Instead, despite recurring movement motives, it looked tagged on. Paul Dresher’s minimalist rehash did not help.

At its best, Suns suggested a sense of scintilutf8g vibrancy and aliveness coming from the unexpected. Gestures evoked responses from two feet away or all the way across the stage. Darting breaks redefined unisons. Joseph Copley and Li Pianpian’s delicious partnering was both fleeting and predestined. Foley and Lu Yahui solos ran on parallel yet differently grounded tracks. And how about Tan Yuanho’s balletic athleticism and Steffany Ferroni’s fierce physicality, or Margaret Cromwell, who flung herself like a shooting star? Suns may not be perfect, but the dancers come pretty damned close.