Courtesy photoNew season: Norma Fong and Brendan Barthel appear in Robert Moses’ Kin’s 17th annual home program this weekend at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Courtesy photoNew season: Norma Fong and Brendan Barthel appear in Robert Moses’ Kin’s 17th annual home program this weekend at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Robert Moses’ Kin launches ‘Iliad’ mashup

The dancers roll, gesture and lunge to the audio landscape of writer and performer Carl Hancock Rux. The movement is exacting, athletic and birdlike. Rux’s recording lends a feeling of funk to the scene. This is the world of Robert Moses’ Kin, one of San Francisco’s leading contemporary dance companies.

Led by enigmatic choreographer Robert Moses, the troupe — known for its diversity — premieres its new work “Helen” in The City this weekend. Inspired by Rux’s work, poetry by E. Ethelbert Miller and Homer’s “The Iliad,” “Helen” focuses on themes of objectification.

“I’m not trying to redo ‘The Iliad’ because it’s been done. I’m not trying to update it, but rather to respond to it and be true to its impulse. Something about ‘The Iliad’ survives because it’s concerned with being human,” Moses says.

Dancer Norma Fong agrees: “There are allusions to Helen of Troy, but I do not feel we are representing one specific character. I feel as though we represent the moral struggle that the humans, society and gods experience in ‘The Iliad.’ Any dancer can be interchanged with any aspect or character in ‘The Iliad,’ and this provides constant opportunity to explore the movement within the context of the piece.”

In one section of “Helen,” Fong sits atop a crouched female dancer while a male dancer watches her from behind. The scene elicits thoughts of relationships between men and women and how perceptions affect them.

In addition to “Helen,” the program includes excerpts from the upcoming “Scrubbing the Dog,” slated to premiere in June at ODC Theater. The full-length work will look at how historically racist and offensive icons have been scrubbed of their original meaning.

Rounding out the program are Moses’ “Biography,” a tribute to author James Baldwin; “Speaking Ill of the Dead,” a meditation on war; and “The Soft Sweet Smell of Firm Warm Things,” last presented in its entirety in 2003.

Robert Moses’ Kin 17th home season

Where: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ Novellus Theater, 700 Howard St., S.F.

8 p.m. Friday-Saturday    Tickets: $25 to $45

(415) 978-2787,,


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