The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts will be flooded tonight. Yet it won’t be water filling its theater. Instead, Liss Fain Dance will be bringing together a deluge of talent — from young dancers to experienced filmmakers to long-dead painters — for the premiere of “The Flood.”
San Francisco-based choreographer Liss Fain set her new 32-minute piece to the last two sections of Louis Andriessen’s contemporary opera “Writing to Vermeer,” which juxtaposes chaotic world events with the quietude of private life. The opera is set in 1672, the Dutch Year of Disaster when the dikes were opened to flood the countryside in order to prevent a French invasion. Its focus, however, lies in the letters written to Dutch painter Jan Vermeer by the three most important women in his life — his wife, his mother-in-law, and his model — while he was away onbusiness in The Hague.
Fain explains that she was attracted to the opera’s unusual concept. “The domestic letters for Vermeer are really boring and nothing goes on: there is no poison, or suicide, there is no dramatic action, except that because it’s happening during this political upheaval the music reflects the cataclysmic events of the time,” she says. “They are singing the words ‘I’m really bored with eggs’ to this score that’s full of tension and anxiety. For me, that polarity is really relevant to the political situation today. There is havoc around the world and people’s lives are in disarray, but we’re able to live our lives very comfortably because it doesn’t affect us.”
In “The Flood,” three women portray stability, but then are sucked into chaos created by a larger group of dancers. Although the choreographer does not use Vermeer’s unique imagery, the palette of the Dutch artist has definitely influenced the costumes made by Jamielyn Duggan of Eimaj Design.
Fain is also collaborating with two filmmakers, Drew Takahashi and Richard Kizu-Blair, who created a unique film that she calls “almost like a dance.” This is her first time working with filmmakers and she is excited that they worked not only with imagery, but also with architecture and rhythm. The film, which constantly moves between realistic and abstract images, also fluctuates in its physical appearance in the back of the stage. At times, it fills the entire surface of the screen alternatingly, transforming into two divided parts, a narrow strip or a small patch.
Fain’s troupe is also performing last year’s “When Still,” a dance in three parts set to choral music by Monteverdi and a Gregorian chant and named after a line in Petrarch’s poem. Fain says that unlike “The Flood,” which reflects on the hardship of facing the external world, the older piece is about introspection and “finding a deep spiritual thread that ties your life together.”
Liss Fain Dance
Where: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. today and Saturday
Tickets: $22 to $32
Contact: (415) 978-2787; www.lissfaindance.org