Bay Area modern dance lovers with a good memory should recall Cid Pearlman, who was the artistic director of the respected and influential Nesting Dolls dance company from 1991-99.
She relocated from San Francisco to Los Angeles at the end of the decade, then spent most of the next decade working in a wide array of settings as a freelance choreographer, creating dance for film, opera and theater. As a curator, she co-launched the respected dance series max10 Performance Laboratory. Meanwhile, she continued to earn distinction for her own work, earning the 2002 Lester Horton Award for visual design for her evening-length dance "High Fall," and two Horton Award nominations for 2006's "small variations."
She moved back north in 2007, teaching at UC Santa Cruz's Theater Arts Department and Cabrillo College's Dance Department. Pearlman now is presenting her first full-length work in San Francisco since the 1990s with the world premiere of "Your Body Is Not a Shark," which runs Jan. 11-13 at ODC Theater and Jan. 17-20 at Santa Cruz's Motion at the Mill. With text by poet Denise Leto and an original score composed and performed by cellist Joan Jeanrenaud and members of Santa Cruz's Cadenza Orchestra, conducted by founder Maya Barsacq, it's a performance piece that explores the limits of sound and body via various poetic forms.
For Jeanrenaud, who started focusing on composing after a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis prompted her to end a high-flying international career with Kronos Quartet, and Leto, whose struggle with laryngeal dystonia has transformed her approach to verse, "Your Body Is Not a Shark" is an intensely personal undertaking.
In assembling a multigenerational cast of six dancers, including David King and Santa Cruz dance institution Sara Wilbourne, Pearlman employs physical limitations as a point of departure for dissecting the creative process.
"The young athletic body that's ubiquitous in dance tells a story about virtuosity and youth and vigor, and I'm interested in other stories and different kinds of virtuosity," Pearlman says. "People have extraordinary things to give at different points in their life. We have people in different places in their careers. Sara is in her 60s; David is 49. I want to live in a complex world with room for lots of different situations, room for fragility and delicacy and room for intimacy."
"Shark" examines questions about limitations through a series of six movements, each based on a poem by Leto set to different poetic styles. Pearlman says she rigorously adheres to each poem's form "to almost disable my dancers to come up with something new." It's a collaborative process with the dancers and with the other artists, so she and Jeanrenaud responded to each other's work as the piece was in process.
Cadenza's Barsacq provided the project's animating vision, facilitating the collaboration between Jeanrenaud, Pearlman and Leto. In dealing with laryngeal dystonia, a condition that can make speaking difficult, Leto has found different ways of writing the challenge into her poetics. And as an art form that ruthlessly subjects its practitioners to the vicissitudes of aging, dance provides a ripe target for examining its own conventions. She's hardly the first choreographer to delve into this territory, but she brings a particular set of questions to the stage, particularly related to gender, that make her perspective a welcome addition to a needed dialogue.
"I've gotten so much working with dancers who are more mature," she says. "It's really rich terrain. In the music, poetry and dance, we use stumble and stutter as central metaphor, with the text giving context, content and form."
Details: 8 p.m. Jan. 11-12, 3 p.m., Jan. 13 at 3153 17th St., San Francisco, $18-$24, 415-863-9834, www.odctheater.org/buytickets.php; and 8 p.m. Jan. 17-20, Motion at the Mill, 131 Front St., Santa Cruz, $16-$22, 831-457-1838, www.santacruzdance.com.
TWO TO TANGO: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts presents the West Coast premiere of Bebe Miller Company's "A History," featuring Darrell Jones and Angie Hauser. The evening-length duet was inspired by the decadelong stage relationship between the two starring dancers. They are accompanied by a digital media installation by Maya Ciarrocchi with video by Lily Skove that offers a window into the rich history that led to this self-reflective work.
Details: 8 p.m. Jan. 25-26, YBCA Forum, 701 Mission St., San Francisco, $25-$30, 415-978-2787, www.ybca.org.
A TRIPLE TREAT: Striding into its second decade, Company C Contemporary Ballet opens its 11th season with three world premieres by Charles Anderson, Brian Reeder and Patrick Corbin. Their "Winter Program" opens at 8 p.m. Jan. 17 at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, repeating at 8 p.m. Jan. 18 and 19, with an additional 3 p.m. performance Jan. 19. Tickets, $23-$45, are at 925-943-7469 or www.lesherartscenter.org. The company moves to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' Lam Research Theater in San Francisco for 8 p.m. performances Feb. 7 and 8, a 6 p.m. gala performance Feb. 9 and a 3 p.m. matinee Feb. 10. Tickets, $23-$45, are available at 415-978-2787 and www.ybca.org.
Contact Andrew Gilbert at firstname.lastname@example.org.