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Detour dance’s ‘Fugue’ journeys from SF to a fabled city

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From left, Jana Griffin, Sienna Williams and Scott Marlowe appear in detour dance’s premiere “Fugue.” (Courtesy Melissa Lewis)
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“Huge” is the first word detour dance founders Kat Cole and Eric Garcia use to describe their San Francisco premiere “Fugue.”

It has a “crazy” amount of infrastructure, Cole says, while Garcia adds, “Literally, we’re taking up several blocks of the Mission.”

More than a year in the making, the piece also represents the first time the choreographers have worked with text (collaborating with playwrights Lourdes Figueroa, Baruch Porras-Hernandez and Brian Thorstenson) and with a site-specific format.

“Fugue” opens Friday, when some 40 audience members will meet at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church, then be divided into three groups for varied journeys (with stops at stores, cafes and parks), each ending at Studio 210 on Cesar Chavez Street.

The show blends fictional and real stories, culled from community-based research including extensive interviews, about queer people of color living in The City.

Cole points out that the project changed substantially as she and Garcia began to develop it.

At first, she says, “We were thinking of it more as a walking tour; we were curious about the queer history of the Mission. We had maps from the 1980s of bars and physical spaces that were here.”

But as they pursued bringing stories from that era to life, she says, themes about “yearning to leave” evolved: “People realized, ‘This city isn’t what were told. It isn’t what we imagined.’”

To that end, “Fugue’s” three different scripts each describe a departure from San Francisco and the search for a new, better — and fictional — place.

With co-directors El Beh and Wiley Naman Strasser, and a cast including both dancers and actors, Garcia says, “We are leaning on our performers and playwrights to come to the table with us.”

While Cole and Garcia call their choreography styles complementary — Cole appreciates detail and gesture and Garcia goes for edgy, punchy movement — their approaches are similar in that they work with viewpoints rather that solely focusing on structure.

Both queer artists of color, the former University of San Francisco students were highly influenced by their performing arts professor Amie Dowling and other instructors focusing on multi-disciplinary collaborations and social justice issues; they established detour dance in 2009 to continue promoting those principles.

A few weeks ago, their first rehearsal of “Fugue” went well, says Garcia, noting “great” audience feedback ranging from “you’re a quick walker” to reveling in the experience of interacting with the Mission, which almost becomes a character in the show.

Almost like a Rubik’s Cube, Cole says, “It reminds me of Rebecca Solnit’s books about walking — about the possibilities of exploring so many things. That’s its beauty.”

IF YOU GO
Fugue
Presented by detour dance
Where: Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church, 455 Fair Oaks St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Fridays, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 4 and 8 p.m. Sundays; closes Dec. 10
Tickets: $15 to $30
Contact: www.detourdance.com/fugue
Note: Patrons are advised to wear comfortable shoes and “come dressed as your most fabulous, glittery, flowery self.”

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