This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post 05/13/2014
The Music of Our Lives: Sarah Bush Dance Project (Rocked by Women)
By Carla Escoda
It’s been a great season for music in dance on the Left Coast, from Zoë Keating’s haunting cello in ODC Dance’s boulders and bones, to Ratmansky’s Shostakovich Trilogy at San Francisco Ballet, Mark Morris’ Handel extravaganza, Liam Scarlett’s meditation on Philip Glass, Samuel Carl Adams’ ghostly soundscape for Robert Dekkers’ cares you know not, Amy Seiwert’s tribute to Cesaria Evora, and Emil de Cou’s bracing delivery of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring for Molissa Fenley at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Nothing, however, rivals the towering score designed by Julie Wolf for the Sarah Bush Dance Project’s Rocked by Women, which exploded this past weekend at Dance Mission Theater in San Francisco.
An artfully curated compilation of some of the most powerful songs by female singer-songwriters, rockers and rappers, galvanizes this 70-minute work that spins the personal into the political with a (mostly) deft touch. Spliced into the score is poetry by Judy Grahn and commentary by Judy Dlugacz, founder of the iconic Olivia Records, on creating a women’s movement through the culture of music. In lieu of a backdrop, some of the dance sequences take place in front of, or behind, a screen onto which is projected intriguing film footage from the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, including a terrific Taiko drumming sequence, and from Club Q, the legendary lesbian dance party that rocked San Francisco in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Weaving it all together are fragments of sound brilliantly engineered by Wolf.
Against this blazing soundscape, choreographer and artistic director Sarah Bush chronicles the milestones in her life in an effervescent movement argot that borrows freely from various contemporary schools of dance including contact improv, Graham and Horton techniques, jazz and hip hop. She and her company of five powerful women take on the roles of young children, teenagers, mothers, lovers, dancers at a club, and Greek chorus. You don’t have to be a child of the 70’s, or a lesbian, or a feminist, or female, to share the moments of puzzlement, frustration, and joy, the heady rush of the adolescent crush, the pangs of passion, jealousy, and outrage. The genius of this piece lies in its depiction of a journey that will be familiar to some, foreign to others, but that draws us all in with the seductiveness of the music, the vivacity of the dancers, and the austere and nimble staging, which bears the imprint of collaborator and theatre director Becca Wolff.
Photo credit: Molly DeCoudreaux