SF’s International Arts Festival takes flight

It’s not every day that travelers at San Francisco International Airport happen upon a troupe of dancers suspended in midair. Today, however, such a surreal dance spectacle will fill SFO’s International Terminal when aerial artist Joanna Haigood kicks off the San Francisco International Arts Festival with her latest performance, “Departure and Arrival.”

Against the backdrop of video projections and original music compositions, dancers will utilize the architectural features of the International Terminal as they explore the social and cultural contexts of the African Diaspora, in keeping with the central theme of the fourth annual arts festival, which runs through May 27 at a number of venues in San Francisco.

In addition to today’s inaugural performance, “Departure and Arrival” will be performed at the same SFO terminal on Friday, Saturday and May 20, and all performances are free.

In order to translate such an enormous subject to audiences, Haigood, a choreographer, dancer and founder of Zaccho Dance Theatre based in the Bayview-Hunters Point District, approached the African Diaspora in three parts, which resulted in a 30-minute performance that loops continuously for two hours and offers audiences the chance revisit segments for a more three-dimensional experience. “The whole idea of the loop plays into how we remember history and the memories we pull out of it. The loop allows you to come back and examine a part, which means more facets are then articulated for you,” says Haigood, 50.

The first installment of the performance installation focuses on the Middle Passage and the implications of the slave trade on African Americans in the United States. The piece serves as a harsh walk through history as it examines lynching, gang violence and, most recently, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

From the darkness of the Middle Passage to artistic ingenuity, the second part of the piece is an inspiring segment that celebrates the contributions of such prolific African American artists as James Brown and Duke Ellington.

“The second section focuses on how African Americans in this country have really pulled themselves up and transformed a disastrous and traumatic event into something positive,” says Haigood.

The third segment is a poetic statement of sorts that suggests that now is the time for the healing to begin. It follows an African man’s arrival in the United States and his desire to be a part of a movement of healing that eases the friction between Africans and African Americans.

“These are really deep wounds and they are still manifesting,” says Haigood. “The healing hasn’t happened and it’s important to continue this dialogue for it to begin. I think the festival will inspire people to dig deep and see where they fit inside this history and we can then begin to move forward in a constructive way.”

Departure and Arrival

Presented by: Zaccho Dance Theatre

When: 8:30 p.m. today, Friday, Saturday and May 20

Where: International Terminal Ticketing Hall, San Francisco International Airport

Tickets: Free

Contact: (415) 399-9554 or www.sfiaf.org

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