You might have seen Jo Kreiter or her dancers flinging themselves away from the sides of buildings, twirling from ropes, dangling from metal rings or dancing on walls, all suspended anywhere from 2 feet to 100 feet off the ground. Kreiter, founder and choreographer of Flyaway Productions, is a real-life Spider(wo)man.
Moving vertically comes naturally to her, and it’s the subject of and metaphor for her new work, “Give a Woman a Lift,” onstage this week at the Joe Goode Annex.
After years of outdoor site performances, this piece brings back into focus her original intent for establishing the company 18 years ago as a feminist take on aerial dance.
But contrary to the title’s implication, “Lift” is an affirmation of women rising on their own steam and not waiting for anyone to give them a hand up.
“Our movement vocabulary for this piece comes from the marriage of the concept — going up — with the objects that enable us to do that,” Kreiter says.
Those objects — the suspension apparatus — were inspired by the annex’s industrial architecture and engineered by her longtime collaborator, set designer Sean Riley.
“The annex has about four or five I-beams and we wanted to work with the same kind of steel, so we got an I-beam from a building yard and chopped it into little slices,” Kreiter says.
One of those slices, a 12-foot length of steel weighing about 500 pounds, is suspended 15 feet off the ground and sways like a pendulum.
“We’ve never worked with a swaying object this heavy,” she says. Riley and Kreiter have to share a very deep level of mutual trust to make it all work.
“I have to trust him, his technology, knowledge and engineering skills,” she says. “And he has to trust that I’m not going to put the dancers at risk. That’s a wonderful place to be when you relate to another human being.”
Riley also designed a bank of swaying lights that illuminates the dancers from the front of the stage. The original score by Jewlia Eisenberg is the company’s 20th commissioned piece by a female composer.
So, one asks, does Kreiter ever get vertigo?
“Not really,” she says. “I have a memory at the age of 6 standing right at the edge of the top of a waterfall. My mother freaked out, but I felt like it was absolutely nothing. Everyone is afraid of something — I’m extremely claustrophobic. But when I’m high up I feel freedom.”
IF YOU GO
Jo Kreiter’s Flyaway Productions
Where: Joe Goode Annex, 401 Alabama St., S.F.
When: 7:30 and 9 p.m. Friday-Saturday and Nov. 13-16
Tickets: $20 to $25