Robert Moses’ latest dance choreography addresses the many ghosts of the pandemic

‘The Soft Solace of a Slightly Descended Lost Life (Suck it)’ at Presidio Theatre

By Aimée Ts’ao

Special to The Examiner

Robert Moses, founder and artistic director of the KIN dance company, says of his forthcoming premiere: “It’s about the things that are in the title — ‘The Soft Solace of a Slightly Descended Lost Life (Suck it)’ — as a black man, as a black artist that you run into over the course of your life.”

Moses explains: “(These things) are sometimes addressed, sometimes not addressed. It’s about the space you get into, where something happened and you should address it. And what it means to be a creator in an environment where you constantly hear about the violent and aggressive ways that society responds to you.”

As for the parenthetical phrase in the dance’s title, Moses says: “The ‘Suck It’ in the title is about life being what that sounds like — there is a middle finger. At some point you can’t suck out any more life. The life that you have and the way you live it is the sucker that keeps moving you forward.”

Founded in 1995 in San Francisco, Robert Moses’ KIN has long used dance to address race and culture, sometimes with hope and sometimes with anger and sadness.

“The Soft Solace of a Slightly Descended Lost Life (Suck it)” is more in the latter category and very much a response to the pandemic. It is built around a text Moses wrote in 2021.

The beginning of the text reads:

There is dirt, dross and mire and sand, and There are trick bags, and trap doors and painted corners and none of those are here escaped,

and there are ghosts

and those ghosts pull you into, or drop you through, or box you in

and they cannot be escaped.

“The Soft Solace” made its online debut in June 2021. But the version premiering April 1-3 at the Presidio Theatre features expanded choreography, while retaining both the text and music that Moses wrote and composed himself.

“The pandemic changed how we do things,” said Moses. “We’ve learned to pick up a lot of skills.”

Navigating the transition from a two dimensional screen to a live performance, as well as the unstable lives of performing artists during the pandemic, has required revised choreography, says Moses. “If one dancer leaves it changes the chemistry of the group. And then we have issues of nobody being able to commit because they need to figure out how to make a living. One thing falls through or another pops up and the rehearsal process gets to be like popcorn. So we had auditions and three of the dancers are brand new to the process.”

Watching a rehearsal yields many clues as to what makes Moses’s terpsichorean brain tick. Three groups of dancers produce a contrapuntal play of movement phrases that often echo each other with not quite identical steps. Then, without missing a beat, they all are dancing in unison. The floor patterns the dancers sketch function like an invisible Rosetta stone, unconsciously translating Moses’ text into a non-verbal narrative.

“This is a work for adults who don’t necessarily need to be supplied with easy solutions,” he says. “I would hope that people who see the work will presume they won’t get everything because it’s very dense, and will come back and see it again.”

Moses’ company is not only back on the stage, it is also putting dance back in the lives of people in The City. “We are back running our outreach and educational programs, working with the Boys and Girls Club, the elderly and the Booker T. Washington (Community Service Center) with our nine teachers,” he says. “And we’re setting up a way to accept cryptocurrency donations.”

IF YOU GO:

Robert Moses’ “The Soft Solace of a Slightly Descended Lost Life (Suck it)”

Where: Presidio Theatre, 99 Moraga Ave., S.F.

When: April 1 at 7:30 p.m. with pre-show reception at 6pm; April 2 at 7:30 p.m., April 3 at 2 p.m.

Tickets: $15-$45

Contact: robertmoseskin.org/events

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