Flights of Fencing 

click to enlarge Meeting their match: Dancers duel it out in Sharp & Fine’s “A Thousand Natural Shocks” at Z Space on Monday. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Meeting their match: Dancers duel it out in Sharp & Fine’s “A Thousand Natural Shocks” at Z Space on Monday.

A dance accompanied by music from Harry Belafonte, Claude Debussy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Elvis Presley and Sun Ra may sound schizophrenic, but in the hands of Megan and Shannon Kurashige, it works.

Premiering earlier this month, “A Thousand Natural Shocks,” the Kurashige sisters’ choreographic debut, is onstage Monday at Z Space. Sharp & Fine, a six-member troupe assembled by and including the Kurashiges, presents the piece in S.F. Conservatory of Dance’s summer series.

“All lives have stories,” says a dancer into the microphone — preparing the audience for the episodic journey, which includes a dozen musical accompaniments.

Love, life and death are themes, amplified by a commissioned text by Kat Howard, known for her
fantastical short stories.

The robust, meaty choreography is danced with gusto. A primal, animalistic sensibility to “A Thousand Natural Shocks” gives the work a dangerous, edgy and off-kilter tilt.

Bodies lunge, thrust, tumble and tangle like bucks ramming antlers. The costumes — Baroque silk jackets with militaristic chevrons — bring to mind fencing and deathly duels. Yet amid the violent athleticism, the generous, intelligent dancers manage to give each tiny quiver and shiver its own sublime moment.

Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” introduces a soft sweetness in a pas de deux between Josianne Fleming and Kelvin Vu.

In one delicate tableau, Vu is horizontal, his head resting on Fleming’s calf as she drags him across the floor. Fleming is a subtle dominant throughout, sometimes carrying Vu or leading in ballroom-like sequences, dipping Vu’s body in a switch of conventional dance partnering roles. The move is particularly pointed, given Fleming’s girlish visage and build.

Then the mood changes, getting feisty and ending only when two dancers emerge from the wings, staring Fleming and Vu down as if to say, “Get a room.”

Dancers pop white balloons instead of guns in a delightful, Dada-esque romp that takes the duel concept to new heights. Choreographed to Belafonte’s rumbling “Get in the Line” followed by the theme from the Western “For a Few Dollars More,” these slices of subversion are enough to make even the most veteran
choreographer jealous.

The Kurashiges cite pioneering choreographers William Forsythe and Ohad Naharin as significant influences, and it shows, both in attention to narrative and the dancing itself.  

Sharp & Fine is well-versed in Naharin’s technique called “Gaga,” a dance vocabulary and training method that produces sinuous, exquisitely sensitive and, at times, unexpected movement.

“A Thousand Natural Shocks” is an astonishingly mature work by emerging artists, diverse yet
cohesive, witty and whimsical.

 

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Lauren Gallagher

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