For an entire generation of young people, the recent death of Steve Jobs brought into focus the transitory nature of life.
Choreographer Carmen Carnes explores that reality in her new piece “Annica/River of Time” onstage at The Garage in The City on Wednesday and Thursday.
The title, from the Sanskrit word meaning “impermanence,” was inspired by a Buddhist parable about life and death: Once we reach our destination there is no further need for the vehicle that carried us.
Carnes’ meditative, almost ritualistic choreography fuses the language of contemporary dance with Asian cultural influences.
In one section, she collaborates with kathak dancer-choreographer Antonia Minnecola.
“The dancers do a lot of singing and ‘body music’ throughout, but in the section with Antonia she teaches me an Indian ‘bhole,’ the precise vocalization of the tabla rhythm. I then teach it to the dancers onstage, and they do an English version, almost like a rap. It’s sort of about the transference of knowledge.”
Carnes first began working on the piece during a four-year hiatus for the birth of her two sons.
“When I wasn’t able to be in the studio I did a lot of Zen painting at home,” she says. “But because I’m such a three-dimensional person I started folding the watercolor paper and thought about incorporating it into a new piece, not only as a sculptural element but also for costumes. They worked well with the theme of impermanence.”
Percussion instrumentalist Aharon Bolsta provides a score that includes a rare UFO-shaped instrument called the hang drum. Designed to generate healing frequencies, its developers stopped production when musicians began using it instead as a melodic instrument.
“They didn’t think it was resonating with the right healing tones,” Carnes says. “I beg to differ … music is very healing.”
Carnes is acutely aware of the healing value in her work, particularly after being away from it for four years.
“I value it so much more — also being healthy after having come out of an attack somewhat recently [Carnes’ multiple sclerosis is in remission]. I have an appreciation for being able to dance, but also for seeing my children’s unbridled, uninhibited responses to music.”
IF YOU GO
Annica/River of Time
Presented by Carmen Carnes Dance Ensemble
Where: The Garage, 975 Howard St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday
Contact: (415) 518-1517, (415) 747-0664, www.brownpapertickets.com
Note: Perceptions Dance Company also is on the program of contemporary dance.