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Jaroslow dancers question nature of power

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From left, Scott Marlowe, Christopher Bigelow, Kelly Del Rosario and Patrick Barnes appear in “Resist/Surrender” by Risa Jaroslow. (Courtesy Margo Moritz)

Resistance, a rallying cry for any number of sociopolitical groups in the Bay Area, gets a new twist in choreographer Risa Jaroslow’s West Coast premiere of “Resist/Surrender,” opening at ODC this week.

In the dance, which premiered in New York in 2006, Jaroslow inquires into the nature of maleness in our culture. She says, “The question of power struck me. It’s something we all want but are also afraid of. We stuff it into other people but then we kind of resent it.”

The movement takes her cast of four dancers, literally, up against a wall. an 8- by 24-foot cedar structure designed by Perry Gunther.

The dancers also have to address the wall: “They have to grapple with control every time they perform … Anyone can take control of the movement at any time and then the others have to give it up. They’re free to try to interrupt it — to try and give it to someone else. It makes it very exciting, very real, very visceral,” Jaroslow says.

Ten male non-dancers serve as a kind of silent chorus representing a broader slice of humanity. Sometimes they provide comfort to the dancers, sometimes they create a human wall of resistance. “This wall is gentle with them. Their bodies yield and support the dancers, taking their weight.” Jaroslow says.

The score, performed live by the Paul Dresher Ensemble, was developed by New York composer Scott Johnson, who based the instrumentation on pitch and rhythm of voices from recorded interviews with New York City firefighters, corporate lawyers, gay teens, senior adults, counselors to men who batter, and participants in an all-male poker game. Johnson then layered the spoken text on top of a driving, rock-like score.

This week’s program also features the premiere of “Four Dialogues: A Solo,” a piece Jaroslow created after asking four local choreographers whose work she admired to suggest an idea, a provocation or a question.

Katie Faulkner suggested “beginnings and endings” with specific time limitations for each movement. Ballet dancer Christian Burns described his improvisational method: listening, looking, drawing what is seen and heard, and then dancing to that.

Dance-theater artist Laura Arrington sent the challenge of how to give information to an audience besides being on the stage. And dancer and performance artist Keith Hennessy asked that the movement be as much as possible about body to body — quite a challenge for a soloist.

IF YOU GO
Risa Jaroslow & Dancers
Where: ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Oct. 15-17, 3 p.m. Oct. 18
Tickets: $20 to $25
Contact: (415) 863-9834, www.odcdance.org

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