Unbeknownst to many, China is a place where years of classical ballet are finally giving birth to modern dance. So perhaps it doesn’t come as a surprise that when modern choreographer Margaret Jenkins went to China to work with the country’s only three modern dance companies, she was inspired not by their modern moves, but by symmetry inlaid in their classical ballet training.
Starting Thursday, the San Francisco-based Margaret Jenkins Dance Company premieres “Other Suns,” a work inspired by symmetry and its place in the modern world that often runs askew. The work is the first part of a trilogy that will be presented over the next two seasons. In the next two parts, Jenkins plans to work with the companies from China to create collaborative pieces.
Jenkins says symmetry has been a big part of the Chinese dance culture and is connected with the communist regime there.
“Given that China is very new to coming on its own on a creative level, it’s very new to experiment with what the individual feels as opposed to what the state wants you to feel,” she says.
Her job in China was to help the young dancers move away from symmetry to explore individual expression. However, during her stay, she became fascinated with the idea of symmetry.
“I got fascinated with what we need about symmetrical structure to keep a balance so things don’t appear always in chaos,” the choreographer says.
Jenkins, whose work is often abstract, then began thinking of symmetry in the life of the planet in view of a growing discussion about global warming.
“There is something about symmetry and asymmetry and melting of the planet that came together for me in how I was going to make this piece,” she says.
Jenkins is working with set designer Alexander Nichols, who created a set that promises to be no less than spectacular. The stage will be adorned with lights hanging from a grid at Project Artaud Theater and 16 twisted metal pipes, which signify the dismantling of symmetry. A box on the floor will hide a well that will start to get filled with water from the pipes as the piece progresses.
So, if the idea of symmetry doesn’t strike your curiosity, then it may be worth a trip to the Artaud to see if the company can pull off this ambitious plan.
Margaret Jenkins Dance Co.
Where: Project Artaud Theater, 450 Florida St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $20 to $25
Contact: (415) 392-4400 or www.mjdc.org