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Gregory Dawson finds truth in panoramic dance

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Choreographer Gregory Dawson celebrates dawsondancesf’s 10th anniversary with the world premiere “les vérités” at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. (Courtesy Devi Pride Photography)
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San Francisco choreographer Gregory Dawson is preparing for a homecoming as his troupe celebrates its 10th anniversary in special performances this weekend at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater.

“It’s where I spent most of my career. Going back is going to bring back amazing memories for me,” says Dawson, who danced with Alonzo King LINES Ballet for 18 seasons and remains resident choreographer for LINES’ education programs.

With dawsondancesf’s world-premiere full-length contemporary dance, “les vérités,” Dawson — who typically presents his work in intimate, black box theaters — is taking advantage of YBCA’s plentiful space and proscenium.

“It’s a large venue, hopefully we’ll have a large crowd and something new to a majority of people,” says Dawson, calling the dance the incorporation of “two separate movies.” One comes from, he says, “the whimsical part of my brain that takes me and my dancers on journeys.” The other is a “technical movement exploration.”

Dawson’s dances are non-narrative; he stresses that he and his collaborators “don’t create to spoon-feed” audiences.

He invites his trusting dancers, many who have been with him for six or seven years, to offer their interpretations, while electronic composer-arranger Ron Kurti and the Classical Revolution Quartet are providing classically informed, yet modern musical accompaniment.

Contributions by John Ramirez (visual media), Jamie Emerick (set design) and Joan Raymond (costumes) give the panoramic dance its “cinemascope” feel, Dawson says.

Although Dawson acknowledges that the ballet world at times can be cold and hard (“money is really hard to come by”), he’s at a great place in a busy career, in an “invigorating” and “uplifting” environment, finding support from the California State Summer School of the Arts’ Dance Department in Southern California, where he’s been in residence since 2007, as well as the Black Choreographers Festival,

“I’m grateful to be in a community that is so embracing,” he says, thankful that Alonzo King recruited him to choreograph in 2005 after he retired from performing and moved to Italy to become a mosaic artist.

For Dawson, who grew up in a family of educators (and says he always was destined to dance), teaching is as important as making dances: “Being able to give back is what feeds the fire; informing, mentoring and inspiring artists is No. 1.”

At the same time, he’s also excited about another 2017 evening-length premiere he’s working on: “RITE 17!,” set to Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,”

The dance, he says, “pays homage to the beauty and light of the struggle” of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s-90s, and “the support garnered in those horrific times.”

He says, “I’ve been studying the music like crazy, tapping into my inner gay spirit.”

IF YOU GO
dawsondancesf
Where: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 27-28
Tickets: $20 to $35
Contact: (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org

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