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‘Terrain’ offers new attitudes about aging women

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Designer Kate Mitchell is pictured with fashions featured in “Terrain.” (Courtesy photo)

Oakland-based artist-choreographer Kate Mitchell got the idea for her newest project, “Terrain,” after looking at photographs of her own wrinkles.

“A few years ago, I started to notice a lot of changes on my body, like sags and wrinkles, and despite my best efforts, I was horrified. At the same time, I’ve also recognized an ageist bias against women,” says Mitchell, whose collaborative performance and exhibition comes to ODC Theatre in San Francisco on Friday and Saturday.

“I have a passionate need to refute this perspective of revulsion, and that is how ‘Terrain’ began,’” says Mitchell, the author of “Fashioning Women” and a self-described “faux couture” artist.

In the book “Fashioning Women” and 2013 performance piece of the same name, Mitchell pointed out the absurdities in fashion and beauty industries.

In “Terrain,” she asks “Why is an ancient tree a magnificent, treasured icon, while a woman who ages becomes an ill-considered side note in our culture?”

The piece, a collaboration with choreographers Bianca Cabrera, Brittany Ceres and Claudia Anata Hubiak, composer Ben Juodvalkis, lighting designer Walter Holden and photographer Alessandra Mello, aims to refute that contraction by offering “a new perspective on a woman’s inner life and the outer world around her.”

More than a dozen contemporary dancers, women ages 22 to 57, are featured in the production’s full-length concert. The movement takes inspiration from abstract photographic images of skin and the bones beneath them, juxtaposed to images of trees, rocks, sand and water. Both have dramatically similar patterns and textures.

Fashions and costumes designed by Mitchell, who calls them “sculptural garments,” also have complex, compelling terrain.

Choreography, fashion and photography are linked in a “mesh of multiple expressions of the same concepts,” says Mitchell, who maintains that “Terrain” challenges typical assessments of women’s worth based on age as well as looks.

Describing how the 50-minute performance “ends in a glorious moment when one dancer is lofted skyward by the other women,” she says her primary goal is “to affirm our value as women — especially in light of this week’s election.”

She adds, “I am hoping that seeing a live performance will be so important as a coming together in the face of hatred, and a rejuvenation of our loving spirits.”


IF YOU GO

Terrain
Where: ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 18-19
Tickets: $22 to $45
Contact: www.odcdance.org
Note: A reception follows the Nov. 18 performance.

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