Cirque de Tandy

By Scott MacClelland

OMG! Tandy Beal’s production of Scoville Units was like something you’d go to Las Vegas for. But at pennies on the dollar, you only had to go to Aptos. How good was the show? People streaming to their cars in the Cabrillo performing arts parking lot after the two-hour performance on Sunday afternoon could be heard raving out loud.

The program title celebrated Jon Scoville, Tandy’s “current” husband, company co-founder and resident composer. And while the globally prolific Scoville knows his craft inside out, much of his ‘music’ is sonic free-for-all, with electronic and concrète sources in equal measure. And with a cast of more than 45, the range of dance styles was equally global and local, the costumes from demure to exotic, the lighting and drops vivid and scintillating, like any circus of that calling should be.

Tandy Beal made her entrance in silence, rising alongside a concert grand piano that elevated slowly from the orchestra pit at Cabrillo Crocker Theater. Her stamp on what was to follow loud and clear. When the light came up again, Ivan Rosenblum presented four of Scoville’s piano pieces, the last, Pavane, with clarinetist Jeff Gallagher—both are well-known area musicians—joining in. Gallagher would reappear for a solo, Claire de Moon, accompanied by Beal in which her movements echoed the music’s phrases and melodic gestures with grace and simplicity, with hung clusters of reflective ribbons glittering and flashing with white light.

Between the two ‘units,’ and with the piano now gone from view, Omnigamelan (pictured above) presented Suciawani (sacred land) Balinese dancers Noni Anderawati, Nina Herlina and Maria Omo dancing their own Northern Bali-style choreography in spectacular costumes and ‘talking’ fans. Their steps embraced traditional gestures, hand, feet, arms, legs, neck and crowned heads, in coordinated patterns that allowed for individual solos. In plain attire, Elijah Leone launched Starscape with his roue Cyr—a six-foot metal hula hoop–in an acrobatic display of breathtaking skill and balance as he rolled around the stage like a gyroscope in every imaginable configuration within his magic wheel. (Leone has won numerous prizes for his art.) A recorded synthesizer solo accompanied him.

Balaço Baço, which means ‘mess,’ was choreographed and danced with precision by Palomar Ballroom’s Jeremy Pilling and his student Marinda James-Heskett, both glamorously attired in tango costumes. Compass Rose, from Beal and Scoville’s HereAfterHere, seen in the same theater several years ago, closed the concert’s first half with eight high-energy women in rank and file patterns of geographic design and explosive surprises, a testament to Beal’s musical and spatial instincts and unique sense of using contrary motion to beguile the senses.

Earlier, one of two videos—Boarding Pass—by Denise Gallant with a soundscape by Scoville, searched high and low for all manner of transport, from balloons to railways, from footage of the Wright Brothers to modern high-speed movement, imagery and music presented in montage. Gallant has collaborated with Beal and Scoville in the past, especially including HereAfterHere.

With music by Scoville, Paulo Brandão and Elizah Rodriguez, Lorin Hansen, an award winning malandro dancer (right), performed her own samba-saturated and very sexy Dobrada do Dobrado. This time those vertical ribbons were arrayed horizontally in a rainbow of bright colors.    

The other video, Tether, by Ellen Bromberg, depicted disturbing images and words about a car crash, falling to earth, being underwater and being undervalued, a powerful montage in chilling black and white. Maria Basile danced her own Glisten (in memory of bebop and hard bop drummer Paul Motian) to a recorded keyboard track. Basile is well-known in the San Francisco Bay Area, and for having choreographed for the Cabrillo Festival and appeared at SpectorDance in Marina. Fluttering hands and other familiar Beal gestures loom large in her designs.

The First Place (left)—Chris Banaga, Alo Galedo and Brandon Huynh—danced their own high-energy and high-precision, hip-hop take on Scoville’s Eskatos. They were followed by the composer’s 16-minute Sr Miro’s Saxophone, performed by the Premiere Saxophone Quartet—soprano, alto, tenor and baritone—a piece in seven short movements in a variety of styles. (As just one example of Scoville’s mastery of forms, the last movement was a passacaglia.) It was wisely played straight without any dancing, though the audience applauded each bit in turn.

That led to the grand finish, Beal’s Three Rivers for 12 women of all ages plus Tandy. Here again was Beal at her creative best, somehow making all the moving bodies speak coherently despite their individual and group differences. As the ten-minute work moved toward its climax, five four-year-olds scampered across the stage, only to be followed by all the previous dancers and musicians joining the corps on stage. After each took their own bows, Tandy dragged Jon on stage as a sustained standing ovation rewarded an unforgettable afternoon.

More attention on Scoville’s music is on tap in Beal’s more intimate A Wing and A Prayer, in mid-April at the Colligan in Santa Cruz.

Photos by Patricia Alpizar

SpectorDance Choreographers Showcase

By Scott MacClelland

SPECTORDANCE paraded new dance works by ten choreographers in their Marina studios on the weekend, the summer edition of its Choreographers Showcase series that began in 1997. Overall the tone was serious, the costumes favored black and the music, particularly the synthesized variety, tended to be repetitive and without fixed pitches. For these reasons, You Gon’ Learn Some Jazz Today, created and danced by Cherrie Paghasian, a student at Monterey High and Monterey Peninsula College, with music by Masego, was as glitzy as a Fourth of July sparkler and Paghasian, in bright colors and with an attitude, marked a high point. She got the only laughs on the Sunday afternoon performance.

Another big scorer was Night Revelations by veteran choreographer Margaret Wingrove. The work is a love duet, danced with high polish by Danny Tran (in black) and Mia Glumac (in a rose-colored dress) to Astor Piazzolla’s well-known tango, Adios Nonino. The music is an extended rondo that allowed Wingrove to put the couple through many changes of mood, from affection to rejection.

Fran Spector Atkins and her media specialist Bill Roden created a strange piece, We The People, danced as a solo by Paige Ettin, that began with a recitation of the Preamble to the US Constitution followed by a video of Daniel Roumain playing an electric viola da braccio and a pianist in “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” that, though well-played, bore little resemblance to the anthem and, on the big screen robbed attention away from the dancer. (Above photo by William Roden.) But the choreography was clearly the work of Spector Atkins, a sinuous, sometimes serpentine, sometimes knotted example of her talent for translating deep emotions into physical form.

Melissa Kamnikar created and danced A Message for All of Humanity, an earnest plea seeking to answer the tragedies of today with hope. It was accompanied by the recorded voice of Charlie Chaplin’s famous speech from his film The Great Dictator.

Sweetheart of the Rodeo by Jonathan Lipow engaged four women dancers to Rebel Heart by First Aid Kit. Each dancer carried a battery-powered candle that provided a focal point on the darkened stage, and made patterns as much with their hands as their dancing. Out, Damned Spot! by Rachel Roman anguished four women dance students in short black sheer dresses over red small clothes, over the grief and guilt of Lady Macbeth, with the ominous Panoramic music of Atticus Ross. The piece ended with a solo.

Volar by Andi Salazar, for six dancers, one male, dealt with the circumstances faced by emigrants seeking to escape, over land or sea, from violence and repression. The dancing included individual as well as group movements, including much writhing on the floor, suggesting trying to stay afloat on water. A Sense of Symmetry by Mackenzie King for dancers Arielin Anderson and Caty Updyke-Brunet delivered the promise of its title, with the dancers physically engaged in a great deal of pushing and pulling.

César Rubio Degollado’s Univrs, for three men and three women, summed up the Showcase to Theatre Man for synthesizer. The choreography was complex with running, solos, duos, trios and other divisions. The ensemble somehow was able to keep its design and patterns intact even as the repetitive, featureless music seemed to provide no cues.

A reflection of the times in which we live, this particular program was unusually dark and of deeply serious inflection.

On a brighter note, Amy Byington, director of the SpectorDance School announced upcoming auditions “open to all dancers” eight and older for a new Spector Atkins work, When You Were Gone, and for a Moscow Ballet production of The Nutcracker for dancers six and older to be performed at the Golden State Theatre in Monterey. has the information. Byington also said that SpectorDance’s Ocean Trilogy will be presented at the Bronx Botanical Garden in New York during a climate conference, and that East West, SpectorDance’s gang-violence work will be performed in Stockton, another town similarly blighted.