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Faith in Fables

February 21, 2011

kin.jpegCollaborations between local youth choirs and established professional performing arts companies seem to be all the rage these days in the Bay Area, in part I'm guessing as a result of special funding opportunities for these kinds of projects. There have been several such productions in recent years, such as the San Francisco Girls Chorus' partnership with the Joe Goode Dance Company a couple of years ago and now "Fable & Faith," a dance work steeped in children's fairy tales created by the Robert Moses' Kin dance company with the involvement of the San Francisco Boys Chorus.

I very much enjoyed last night's performance at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, for the combination between the salty strength of Moses' choreography, which involved angular, twitchy movements that gave the the Tale of the Pied Piper a suitably macabre aspect, and the sweetness of the children's voices.

I must admit that I was skeptical when I heard about the way in which the choir planned to sing arrangements of standard repertoire like the "Lacrymosa" from Mozart's "Requiem Mass" and the spiritual, "Motherless Child" in the piece. It sounded a little bit cheesy and I wondered why the composer Paul Carbonara who was responsible for the rest of the musical score, hadn't gone ahead and written special musical lines for the chorus. But the incorporation of this familiar material, especially as sung with the purity of boys' voices, helped to ground the more free-wheeling, experimental aspects of the production, such as Moses' choreography,  Carbonara's expansive, guitar-led electronic musical score, Ian Winters' delicate video designs and Mary Domenico's gorgeously decadent costumes inspired by the 18th century European theatre.

The combination of "Fable & Faith" and "The Cinderella Project," a dance work which Robert Moses' Kin performed on the first half of the program, also provided a great balance for an evening of thoughtful dance: Both shows grapple intelligently with the relationship between parents and children. "Fable & Faith" deals with what the two groups mean for the health of a community. "The Cinderella Project" looks at the relationship in a much more intimate and personal way -- it's a dance piece about people's "right" to be parents and the struggles that many individuals undergo to have kids in the modern world.

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