To someone of lesser mettle than dancer Sara Shelton Mann, broken bones and ripped tendons might have sent them into retirement long ago. But for Mann, they only served to drive her deeper into her creative well. And she’s garnered an impressive number of accolades along the way, including four Isadora Duncan awards and a Guggenheim fellowship.
Mann, one of the world’s foremost figures in avant garde dance, presents her latest production, “Shapeshifter,” in a concert titled “Shared Legacies” on Saturday and Sunday at ODC in San Francisco.
Joining her on the bill is her former principal dancer and protégé Kathleen Hermesdorf, whose company, La Alternativa (formerly MOTIONLAB), performs its piece “the other edge of there is here.”
“I’m very honored to share a show with Sara,” Hermesdorf says. “She always attracts great collaborators and has fabulous dancers.” (Mann’s lead dancer, Maria Scaroni, created quite a stir this year with an NEA-sponsored performance of a piece by Jess Curtis that had her appearing in the nude.)
In “Shapeshifters,” Mann’s dancers navigate that terra incognita at the crossroads of our lives.
“It’s about how we make maps through disputed territories within us. It’s sacred, alluring and dangerous,” says Mann, whose choreography draws upon her extensive knowledge of human consciousness and somatic healing. She adds, “I read energy — the performers’ and the space itself — and work with it.”
Lighting director and performance artist David Szlasa’s technological wizardry complements that process. “I couldn’t say what I wanted to with dance only. I began to work through different tracks — kinesthetic, auditory and visual,” Mann says.
In “Shapeshifters,” three video screens onstage provide the viewer with multiple angles with which to view the performers.
Hermesdorf feels the independent art scene in San Francisco remains fertile ground for the avant garde, despite the fact that artists overseas get better government funding than their U.S counterparts.
“There’s a feral wildness here. [It] has a great effect on art, unlike Europe where it’s controlled by the state,” Hermesdorf says.
Her rigorous travel schedule was the inspiration for “the other edge.”
“I was thinking about teleportation, wanting to be in so many places at once ... how your memory bounces around,” Hermesdorf says.
Lighting and visual designer Elaine Buckholtz creates “the visual trigger to make you dislocate and relocate,” Hermesdorf says.
An evocative electro-acoustic score by Hermesdorf’s longtime music director, Albert Mathias, sets the right tone for the visuals.
It’s an evening to appeal to both dance fans and techno-geeks.
IF YOU GO
Featuring Sara Shelton Mann/David Szlasa and La Alternativa/Kathleen Hermesdorf
Where: ODC Dance Commons, 351 Shotwell St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Tickets: $15 to $18
Contact: (415) 863-9834, www.odctheater.org/buytickets