SF Bay Times, Feb 11-24, 2016 Issue
This Land, a new series by Sarah Bush Dance Project, is a winner in so many ways. First there is Bush herself, whose works emanate from soulful truths that resonate with audiences, and particularly women. As fellow dancer/choreographer Andrea Spearman said, “Sarah’s unique choreography and style has inspired me so much in the way I view womanhood in dance. The stories she creates are relevant and emotional. I appreciate all that she and her image-changing company do.”
Then there is the fact that This Land performances will be outdoors in scenic Oakland settings. The East Bay office of the San Francisco Bay Times overlooks Lake Merritt, and we have even seen some of Bush’s talented and extremely fit dancers practicing at the water’s edge. Oakland is a huge city with not only this lake landmark but also numerous underappreciated parks, so we were thrilled that Bush is drawing attention to such welcoming locations.
Finally, the performances are free! How often do you hear that about the works of accomplished dance companies?
Bush explained to us that the idea for the series emerged from her desire to place herself and her dancers “into the canvas of an outdoor, natural environment” and then to tune in to all of the elements.
Colleague Lisa Harding said that This Land is important now.
“Time spent in outside wild places contributes to our physical, mental, and emotional well-being,” Harding explained. “Most people no longer have the outdoor experiences that previous generations took for granted. Sedentary pursuits, access limitations, and increased concerns over safety, have all affected the availability and appreciation for outdoor recreation and education. Field trips and time for wonder are replaced by less hands-on examinations that limit the opportunities for personal connections.”
Bush shared that the series is aligned with the mission of her company to highlight women’s strength: “When the dancers and I were rehearsing at Lake Merritt this week, we realized a young girl who had been watching us was starting to climb and jump and use her strength to support her body on the different rails and ledges at the park. ‘That is it!,’ I said. ‘That is why we do this! Girls and women need to see women being powerful in their bodies and bold in their spirit!’ We all cheered her on.”
Jeanette Jing Male, a dancer in the company, said that the outdoor settings are just as integral to the works as the choreography. Regarding dancing at Lake Merritt, Jing Male said, “Aspects of the landscape around the lake serve as inspiration for the movement, as well as literal props for the dancers. The pathways, the concrete, the water and the birds, the sounds of footsteps and whispers of conversation, all steep into our performance. Instead of seeing the Lake Merritt Amphitheater as a lunch hangout spot, it will be transformed through our performance.”
Here are some of the upcoming This Land performances:
2/21 at Lake Merritt Amphitheater
Recreate Witness dance inspired by the urban wild and deepen your relationship with this park at the heart of the city. Featuring live music by gina Breedlove.
3/20 at Woodminster Cascade at Joaquin Miller Park
Reach Venture into the hills for a different view, and movement that embodies the efforts of trailblazing women who came before us. Featuring live music by The Anita Lofton Project.
4/17 at Arrowhead Marsh at MLK Jr. Regional Shoreline
Recall Refresh your spirit at the shoreline where you are invited to reconnect to a collective voice through dancing and the rhythm of pounding sticks. Featuring live music by Melanie DeMore.
All shows will be performed on Sundays at 1 pm–rain or shine. Please visit sarahbushdance.org for more information.