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