Engaging journey down ‘Desire Line’

In dance, multidisciplinary is the new black.

In a reversal of 1970s minimalism, today’s choreographers often like to mix metaphors, add color and make a full-blown spectacle around dance. Such performances run the risk of compromising quality for quantity. Yet in the hands of a professional, multidisciplinary work can transform from a conglomeration of art forms to a cohesive, layered artistic statement.

Such is the case with “The Desire Line” by Deborah Slater Dance Theater at Dance Mission Theater through Sunday. The source of inspiration for this intricate piece is the art of Alan Feltus, whose pastel paintings of couples interacting are projected on the wall.

The seven dancers often replicate Feltus’ stiff compositions of ephemeral Botticelliesque bodies, showing, for example, a woman reclining on a man in bed, his hand extended lazily behind her, holding a cup of coffee.

But the dancers also move beyond the paintings’ compositions to play out the highly emotional relationships that Feltus hints at in his melancholy works.

Prior to the bed scene, for instance, the man and woman (played by Shannon Preto and Shaunna Vella) meet and fall in love, but their relationship is spoiled when the man becomes interested in another woman. Thus, the scene in bed is the result of the baggage of emotions and conflicts.

“The Desire Line,” named after an architectural term that signifies the path people take as opposed to the path that’s been created, is peppered with scenes rooted in Feltus’ canvases and transformed into stories of encounter and abandonment.

The performance’s duets are the best examples of how these relationships are crystallized in Slater’s choreography. Always dramatically poignant, they depict a struggle between rivals or a mending of a friendship through dynamics and small theatrical gestures.

Yet the show begins with Kerry Mehling’s brilliant solo, in which she engages the audience with intricate forms and amazing acrobatics. She exemplifies Slater’s syncopated choreography, continued throughout the piece, in which flowing movements are interrupted with sharp stops or sudden grasps between partners.

In their duet, Kenneth Scott and Breton Tyner-Bryan make good use of such bipolar dynamics. Scott pleads with his disappointed lover, Tyner-Bryan, who caresses his head only to drop him on the floor right after. Throughout the piece, Tyner-Bryan is a true powerhouse — she exudes toughness through almost gladiatorial movements.

It says a lot that neither the dancers nor Slater’s choreography are ever outweighed or confused by Feltus’ paintings, Jonathan Segel’s music or Jaime Jacinto’s poetry readings. These separate artistic pieces are not only thematically compatible, but complementary.

Together, the art, the music and the poetry create a highly charged world of passion that inspires the dancers to express themselves at the highest level of intensity.

Deborah Slater Dance Theater

When: 8 p.m. today -Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St., San Francisco

Tickets: $18 to $20; on Sunday, buy one ticket and mom gets in free

Contact: (415) 273-4633, www.artofthematter.org

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