If given the chance to speak, what would the human body say?
Stanford-trained choreographer and dancer Hope Mohr investigates the answer to that question in “Moments of being,” a debut program of four multi-layered dances performed by the newly formed company Hope Mohr Dance. The collection of body-centric stories — “Moments of being,” “Under the Skin,” “Elision” and “more awake than dreaming”” — begins Friday at Dance Mission.
The title performance, a premiere, looks at the act of listening and how the body responds to sound. For the piece, she combined music by Bach with found sounds, to create a forum for listening-based improvisation and classical dance vocabulary.
“Under the skin” is a revival of the 2007 Stanford University-commissioned collaboration with video artist Doug Rosenberg. An intergenerational cast of dancers and community performers reveal stories of transformation, recovery and survival that resulted from medical diagnoses such as breast cancer and scoliosis.
The exploration of personal medical histories is set against the backdrop of X-rays, MRIs, and pre-recorded stories.
“I had [the dancers] pick any experience that felt really rich and live for them,” Mohr says.
The piece “more awake than dreaming,” first performed in 2006, combines spoken word and dance in a study of personality as a mask and the transient nature of energy. The dance reflects Mohr’s interest in the idea of “performance presence” and examines the masks a dancer carries through life, both inside and outside the studio.
“Elision,” also from 2006, explores the physical experience of traumatic memories and the feelings that arise when something unpleasant is remembered. To craft the performance, Mohr asked her team of dancers to reflect upon how they felt physically when they experienced unpleasant or traumatic memories.
“Part of the process involved guiding the dancers into a place that’s authentic, that’s pure feeling and giving them that space just to be,” she says. “Even if it’s a place of total stillness, it’s about letting [the dancers] be in that place to identify where in the body that memory is held and responding to the physical impulse.”
Although a central theme unites the collection of dances, Mohr — who returned in 2005 to her native San Francisco after dancing professionally in New York for eight years — says each performance is distinct, and each has emerged over the course of a few years.
“I always wanted to know more about the body and what the body can say,” she says. The pieces “brought together in this evening all reflect a personal interest of mine.”
IF YOU GO
Hope Mohr Dance
Where: Dance Mission, 3316 24th St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Friday to Sunday
Contact: (415) 273-4633, www.hopemohr.com