Expect a blend of shrewd concepts and innovative, improvised movement in the metrics of intimacy, a collaboration between choreographers Christian Burns and Hope Mohr. If this sounds like some stuffy, high-art performance piece, think again. Burns’ work is intelligent, accessible, and often surprisingly funny. His unique combination of impulsive performance quality and calm confidence make him and his company, burnsWORK, one of the most original dance voices in the Bay Area. He choreographs and performs the metrics of intimacy alongside Hope Mohr, artistic director of Hope Mohr Dance, whose focus on the creative process is highly experimental and consistently refreshing. Both Burns and Mohr have backgrounds in classical ballet (Burns trained at The School of American Ballet in New York City and Mohr, a San Francisco native, trained at The San Francisco Ballet School) which gives their work a certain clarity that can often be undervalued in contemporary dance. The results are choreography that’s both poignant and viewer-friendly. The work is performed at The Garage, an underground venue so cozy you might end up practically sitting on someone’s lap — the perfect place to observe the capabilities of the human body.
— Laura Jaye Cramer, S.F. Weekly, December 3, 2013
“In plenty of dance theater, it’s common for performers to move and speak. It’s hard to do well and it’s a complicated relationship. I’m interested in the nuance of it, the details of it, what makes it work or not work. There’s a moment of individuation that happens when we learn to speak. It’s a pivotal moment in the development of us all.”
-Wallace Baine, “San Francisco Dance Troupe Explores Language and Movement,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, Sept. 25, 2013
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I’ve always been interested in brain and body in conversation or in antagonism. I’m a dancer, but I’m also a writer…For this piece, I wanted to focus on the moment when we learn to speak…and investigate that experience of funneling sensation into speech as an archetypal transition into selfhood.
-Mary Ellen Hunt, S.F. Chronicle, May 2, 2013
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The set design by Katrina Rodabaugh is extraordinary: Strung from the ceiling are jagged branches hung with exposed incandescent light bulbs, soft sculptures in soft blue in the shapes of a castle on a planet, trees sprouting from a whale, and organs, soft organs: lungs, heart, pancreas. Tegan Schwab, swaddled in long blue tubes, rolls fetally, larvally, the tips of her fingers and toes making light contact with the bare wood floor…The six dancers proceed with the hunger and animal investigation of children, test gravity with repeated jumps, wrap themselves in the soft blue shapes, try out their voices with monosyllables, then repeatedly group themselves into tense sculptures that strain the limits of the arms and legs to hold (“Form is different than feeling,” says the voice on the soundtrack, a long poem written by Mohr cut in with voices singing in clear tones, children babbling, the oceanic swish of the intestines)…Schwab explodes through an astonishing solo that mimics the way sounds deform space…
Irene Hsiao, “Theory and Practice,” S.F. Weekly, May 7, 2013
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[In Failure of the Sign is the Sign], pleasure and rigor is also expressed in the product:
The soft blue sculpture intertwined with performer Tegan Schwab’s limbs. Pleasure.
The calculated structures of bodies tethered and released in balanced support. Rigor.
-Julie Potter, “Rigor of the Mind and Body,” Triple Dog Dare, April 17, 2013
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“We all benefit from having a more expressive relationship with our own bodies,” [Mohr] says. “Instead of just using the body as a tool, let the body express itself. It’s a leap of faith for veterans or anyone who doesn’t think of themselves as a dancer, to allow themselves to walk through that door. There are so many preconceptions about how dancers have to be professional or look a certain way. Dance should be available to anyone because it’s such a powerful resource and such an important part of who we are.”
-Chad Jones, San Francisco Chronicle, “Veterans purging the pain of war through acting,” July 25, 2013
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The sixth season of Hope Mohr Dance continues what Mohr does so very well: presenting her own very smart choreography but also, through her Bridge Project, bringing in colleagues whose work she admires. This year, it’s Alpert Awards winner Susan Rethorst with the West Coast premiere of her intricate and much-praised Behold Bold Sam Dog.
-Rita Felciano, S.F. Bay Guardian, “Spring into Arts,” March 20, 2013
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“I had seen the premiere of the full-length “Reluctant Light” at Z Space back in March, and it was fascinating to see Hope Mohr Dance again in this work, this time in an excerpt. Doing an excerpt of an entire piece is not easy at all; you must capture the essence and message of the work without the full choreographic material. Hope Mohr Dance did this very well. I still saw the juxtaposition of encasement and freedom, yet, there were also new discoveries, including a more layered exploration of ‘assumption’. I felt like there was a set of different questions being asked: what does a structure or boundary suggest; how does it temper behavior; how does its assumed role challenge or hinder interactions; what happens when we re-purpose an entity; how do we try and control our surroundings? ”
-Heather Desaulnier, heatherdance.com
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