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Robert Moses’ Kin dance group goes full speed ahead

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Robert Moses’ Kin Dance Co.’s new home season, which opened Thursday at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, featured a program packed with thought, vitality and emotional highs that was exciting throughout, despite the somewhat trying length of two hours.

Unusually, Kin offered six pieces, including three world premieres, instead of the three typically presented by modern dance companies.

“Slowly Watching Memory,” a world premiere by guest choreographer Amy Seiwert, could have been omitted — not that it wasn’t beautiful. On the contrary, the languid duets set to Morton Feldman’s slightly Oriental music were stirring. But the energy and style of Seiwert’s work did not fit the rest of the program.

The other dances, choreographed by Moses, shined with vigor and intensity. In the first piece, “Lucifer’s Prance,” a dramatic work from 2000 set to songs from Philip Glass’ “Akhnaten,” the company exhibited a flurry of high-powered movements and rapidly changing scenes. The images were never static; different dancers emerged in and out of view, creating a truly devilish, almost ritualistic whirlwind dictated by a rhythm of drums.

The largely all-company program also featured two duets, including 1997’s “This State of Annihilation” set to Cesar Franke’s melodic piano composition. The dance was performed by the wonderful Kohlmyer Dowman and Moses himself. Thankfully, the dancers vary for this duet on alternate nights, because Moses, a much better choreographer than dancer, simply was no match for his partner.

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The other duet, a world premiere performed by Moses with Aleta Hayes, was called “The Wall.” In the verbal dance, performers sit across a table and exchange witty, poignant, half-sung dialogue about race. The short, theatrical work was stunning in its treatment of a difficult subject and in its beautifuluse of sound.

The world premiere “Penance” and “Speaking Ill of the Dead,” which debuted last year, showcased the best of Moses’ style.

“Penance” was danced to the bright, jazzy “Elohim” by Daniel David Feinsmith and performed live by the brilliant Feinsmith Quartet. The primal dance featured the women, dressed in jagged white skirts with their hair loose, opposite the men, who looked tribal in striped tops. The fierce, fast movements reflected the tension between the sexes, which, in one especially disturbing scene, spilled into a sort of choreographed gang rape.

The strength of “Speaking Ill of the Dead” came from a different sort of violence. Moses critiques war by creating (along with composer David Worm) a rhythmic beat mixed with somber phrases such as, “We regret to inform you of the loss of your husband.” Clad in the funeral black, the dancers produced an alarming image of a well-oiled war machine that claimed more and more lives just as it proclaimed them a necessary “sacrifice for freedom.”

In all, the program’s delightful mix of topical and abstract choreography makes it a must-see show for any dance aficionado.

Robert Moses’ Kin Dance Co.

Where: Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. today and Thursday through Feb. 17; 7 p.m. Sunday and Wednesday; 2 p.m. Feb. 18

Tickets: $18-$26

Contact: (415) 292-1233 or www.robertmoseskin.org

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