It’s hard to tell when inspiration will strike, but for Lisa Christensen, co-creator of Wide Blue Yonder Dance Company, the seeds for “What Made Us This Way?” — one of three aerial dance pieces featured in the production “Tender Ground” — arose while at the acupuncturist.
As she lay prodded with needles staring at the ceiling, a gentle breeze entered the room and roused a mobile of origami cranes. Being an aerial dancer, Christensen was struck with the idea to create her own human mobile.
After fashioning the hanging contraption, she faced the problem of where to test it; she discovered a place under a bridge in Santa Cruz, which also happened to be a homeless encampment.
“They were so enthusiastic and helpful and quite hospitable to us,” Christensen says. “The tables were turned in some way because they were so giving to us. It was inspiring to me and I decided to choreograph a dance with the apparatus.”
In addition to homelessness, “Tender Ground,” which opens Friday at CounterPULSE in San Francisco, addresses human conditions such as aging and mental health.
“Pearl Berry,” the story of an octogenarian’s need for independence, unfolds mid-air via bungee as the character attempts to change a light bulb. The piece was inspired in part by Christensen’s work as a physical therapist as well as her mother’s own fierce desire to keep herself independent as she grew older.
“The dance is really about how we take care of our parents, our elders and how we try to do what we think is best for them,” Christensen says. “It’s about how in general as a society we consider less and less what their desires are and what their point of views may be.”
When co-creator Andrew Purchin first saw “Pearl Berry” performed, he found the use of thebungee as the perfect tool to express his experience as a psychotherapist. “Hold on to the Chair” explores a therapist’s struggle to hold onto the proverbial chair and not get lost in the life of the client.
Purchin’s intention with the piece is to bring the audience into the backroom of a therapy office and provide an inner portrait of the life of a therapist.
As “Tender Ground” delves into the vulnerability and perseverance of the human spirit, Christensen wants the audience to find beauty in flaws presented by each piece.
“My hope is that the imperfections of the characters in these dances are viewed,” she says. “I want them to see that something that may be typically viewed as unfortunate is also something beautiful and very poignant about the human condition.”
IF YOU GO
Tender Ground Presented by Wide Blue Yonder Dance Company
When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Where: CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission St., San Francisco
Contact: (415) 626-2060 or www.counterpulse.org