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Joe Goode Travels Light

July 31, 2009

It must be an interesting experience for the dancers in the Joe Goode Company to go from performing in the narrow, dark confines of the Ann Hamilton Tower in Sonoma (where I last experienced a site specific work, fall within, by the company earlier this summer) to the airy, open spaces of The Historic Mint building in San Francisco. Everything in fall within was tightly wound and internalized. There wasn't much room for the dancers to move, so kinetic economy was the mainstay of the piece.

Economy plays a major role in this new work. Not only does the work take place in the beautiful, faded edifice that was once the city's mint. But the work's themes are very much tied into ideas of money -- what it's like to have too much or too little; what's really essential in life, versus what's a luxury; what the current economic climate is doing to our minds and hearts versus what similar circumstances did to our forebears in the Great Depression.

One of the great strengths of Traveling Light is the contrast between the use of space and light. Audiences move from space to space throughout the hour-long work. Each room we visit is large and airy. One space in which the dancers perform is a courtyard open to the heavens. On one occasion, a company member performs a song and standing way up high in a balcony. We have to crane our necks to see her. But the no-hold-barred freedom of the venue's layout is sharply balanced against designer Jack Carpenter's use of light. An enormous follow-spot practically crushes a dancer as she moves under it in one scene, making her look like an insect under a microscope. Long shafts of yellow light carve out and confine space within the otherwise vast-seeming courtyard. Dancers twist and stand in the shadows and corners of a space as much as they spread out into the light.

The power of Goode's piece lies in this contrast. The push and pull of economics, the lightness of feeling unfettered by possessions versus the necessity of having a roof over one's head, the constant balancing act of life -- the choreographer deftly weaves all of these ideas into his latest work.

Traveling Light plays at the Mint until August 9. And on another note, the Historic Mint is currently being renovated for eventual use by the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society. Follow this link to find out more about The Mint Project.


  • Just saw Traveling Light last week and was looking for some online discussion... I knew I would find some here!

    I was looking forward to seeing this piece more than anything in recent memory. As a maker of work in non-traditional venues I couldn't wait to see what Joe Goode would do with, arguably, the best non-trad venue anyone in SF has wrangled in recent memory.

    I should know better than to approach a piece with high expectations. It only means I have farther to fall afterward.

    This show was a colossal let down. I accuse them of artistic laziness! Let them be tried and penalized! They had a real live space and they made most of it into several little theatres. they covered the floor with Marley! How could they?! Yes, I know the actual floors would have affected the dancers ability to do the choreography, but perhaps then the choreography would have been something other than the same old vocabulary we've seen a thousand times.

    I was shocked and appalled to see such familiar phrases set in such traditional lighting. For a piece that was supposedly as much about the light as anything else, it was some of the most uninteresting lighting I have seen in recent memory. Where was the use of non-traditional sources? Where were the practicals? Where were the hand-helds? Where was the creativity? Hanging a light outside a window doesn't cut it!

    The one lighting event, and Chloe refers to it, was a tracking spotlight. It was an amazing object and a potentially potent instigator. And yet, the scene turned out to be a big let down. (actually the song they sang in that scene was wonderful.) They had one of the best lighting mechanisms I've ever seen and they never looked at, touched it, interacted with it, or addressed it. It could have been the star of the show and had a whole life but no....nada... why do something inventive when you can just phone in scene with some nice four-part harmonies and a little light choreography.

    Wow, I guess I'm upset. But the truth is it is inherently upsetting to see people waste resources. Whether it's a wall street investment firm wasting tax-payer bail-out money or a mid-level choreographer in San Francisco wasting his own modest grant money - it hurts either way.

    -Jamie M.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 11, 2009 at 10:40 AM  

  • thanks Jamie for weighing in. i understand what you're saying about the piece feeling like lots of individual bits of theatre rather than a coherent work. but i felt the connections between the different parts very subtly -- eg in the fact you could see through the windows during some scenes and catch a bit of what was going on elsewhere; the fact that performers you had just seen in one space would then suddenly materialize in another. There was a fluidity and transparency to the work that I loved. this came in direct contrast to the theme -- money and material possessions -- which are muddy and weighty aspects of our lives in general. anyway, thanks for commenting on my blogpost. hopefully others will join in too

    By Blogger Chloe Veltman, At August 11, 2009 at 10:47 AM  

  • My friend and I were recently talking about the ubiquitousness of technology in our daily lives. Reading this post makes me think back to that discussion we had, and just how inseparable from electronics we have all become.

    I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Ethical concerns aside... I just hope that as memory becomes cheaper, the possibility of transferring our memories onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's one of the things I really wish I could experience in my lifetime.

    (Posted on Nintendo DS running [url=]R4i SDHC[/url] DS NetServ)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At February 1, 2010 at 10:35 AM  

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