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Soulskin Dance’s Adrianna Thompson takes on text in ‘Hero’

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San Francisco troupe Soulskin Dance premieres “Hero,” a follow up to “To Command,” at Dance Mission on Sept. 7-9. (Courtesy Andy Mogg)

Soulskin Dance founder Adrianna Thompson’s first plan to follow up her dystopian-themed piece “To Command,” which premiered in March in The City, was to create a superhero ballet with pop culture overtones.

But, she says, “My head was so not there,” as she realized she needed to make something with depth and personal growth. She adds, “I’m also a mother, thinking about the next generation coming… these kids are strong, they’re fighting.”

As Thompson’s San Francisco-based contemporary troupe marks its fifth anniversary, “Hero,” her premiere 50-minute dance opening Sept. 7 at Dance Mission, also represents her first narrative work.

It features spoken word by her friend, Los Angeles-based playwright Lilly Bright (who starts the show with a monologue, in the form of a letter), a varied score with violin, keyboards and drums by longtime collaborator Noh Salomon and, among the 12 dancers, Ryan Camou, who, she says, admittedly resembles Clark Kent.

The piece considers the concept of heroes in everyday life with text as well as movement, but it’s not a traditional story ballet. And while it reveals the evolution of myriad characters — snipers, soldiers, civilians and even an angel, portrayed by guest dancer-choreographer Sebastien Thill, from Paris – it’s more emotional than literal, says Thompson.

“It’s not mapped out for you,” says Thompson, adding, “It’s OK if somebody doesn’t get my work.”

Now, amid intense rehearsals as opening night looms, Thompson says she’s dealing with a “disturbing, long (four-minute) “gun section” of “Hero” in which she doesn’t want to overwork her already exhausted dancers.

At the same time, her need to take risks overshadows any fears of failing: “I like to challenge myself; I don’t like to be pigeonholed,” she says.

For Thompson — who grew up in the Sunset (she was in the first class of San Francisco School for the Arts), got a degree in dance from California State University Long Beach, then danced and choreographed in New York City for years — the artistic process is what she enjoys most.

The daughter of a mother who was a poet, a father who was professor of theater, who is married to actor David Ledingham, co-founder of the Aspen Fringe Festival — to which she continues to contribute, dividing her time between the Bay Area and Colorado — Thompson also has been a master trainer in an exercise and movement method called Gyrotonic for 27 years, certifying teachers all over the world.

Yet she’s found a home in The City, where she’ll stay committed to creating new productions with Soulskin (which she named in honor of the transformative spirit of folkloric mermaid-like creatures that shed their skin) and enjoying working with old and new collaborators.

Among her goals are to combine “To Command” and “Hero” into a full-length piece, and to bring more exposure to her company of dancers. Still relatively new in the dance community, she says, “People aren’t sure of me yet. I have to keep going.”

IF YOU GO

Soulskin Dance
Where: Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Sept. 7-8, 5:30 p.m. Sept. 9
Tickets: $20 to $25
Contact: (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com

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