Chris Black has had a longstanding fascination with dance and baseball; the 2006 Izzie Award winner and ODC artist-in-residence grew up with the lofty childhood dream of not only becoming a Balanchine dancer, but also the first female pitcher for the New York Yankees.
Of course, by adulthood, it was clear that neither of those aspirations would pan out, but Black didn’t abandon all hope. While the cofounder of the Potrzebie Dance Project isn’t exactly pitching for the Yankees these days, her latest piece delivers a split-fingered fastball in its own right.
Beginning Saturday, the athletic nuances of the old ballgame are filtered through the lens of dance as a team of nine performers leap, catch, brawl and slide home in “Pastime.” The free 35-minute show, which runs each weekend throughout September, invites families to dust off the ol‘ transistor radio — the original score will be broadcast via a transmitter — and pack up the lawn chairs for nine innings of dance outdoors.
“What I love about baseball really intersects well with dance,” says Black. “Baseball has a lot of geometry in it; it’s sort of all laid out nice and clearly on the field for you at first and then all these things happen that disrupt that, but it always comes back to its original form.”
Black’s inspiration for “Pastime” came about while reading the newspaper; she began to notice that the photographs of baseball players sliding home on the sports page weren’t all that different in composition from the front page spreads of insurgents lying on the ground in Iraq.
“I started thinking about the way baseball is so commonly used as a metaphor of American life, and even with those images there was this overlap and I found that interesting,” she says. “It got me thinking about the visual aspects of the game and the movement that happens in it.”
The dynamic between the downtime in baseball and the burst of action that suddenly erupts after a play is precisely the element that Black found compelling because of its similarity to how everyday life unfolds. The rhythm of the game is more like life than, say, soccer, explains Black. In soccer, there’s constant motion as players run up and down the field, whereas in baseball a lot of time is spent waiting.
While there isn’t necessarily a linear storyline to “Pastime,” Black’s hope is that audience members will identify with certain movements and create their own story.
“The idea is to have fun and experience this outdoors; it’s kind of interesting to watch it from the ground as opposed to sitting in the theater,” says Black. “Part of what I’m hoping for is that people come with their kids and experience [dance] as this not-so-precious thing. It’s OK to make noise, it’s OK for a 2 -year-old to ask Mom and Dad a question.”
Where: Justin Herman Plaza Ferry Park, Embarcadero at Washington Street, San Francisco
When: 1:05 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Note: More performances are Sept. 22 and 23 at Precita Park and Sept. 29 and 30 at Golden Gate Park’s Peacock Meadow.