First Friday Art and Dance Tour Caps off NDWSC

Capping off National Dance Week, NDWSC joined the six-year-old First Friday Art Tours by arranging dance performances at participating galleries. There were ten venues and my friend Marlene and I managed to stop in at five of them.

But first we dropped in at Café Namaste on Squid Row Alley across from Motion Pacific. We ordered chai and chrysanthemum-rose tea in the very small entryway and then proceeded through a door. Suddenly, like stepping into Dr. Who’s Tardis, the room seemed bigger on the inside than it did on the outside. A cavernous lounge with rugs and comfy chairs leads out to a small outdoor patio. Great spot to write, have a tryst, or relax over some of the best chai in town.

Sarah Day

After stopping into Motion Pacific to watch a rehearsal of Flex, we made our way to Felix Kulpa gallery behind Streetlight Records. The garden leading into the gallery is filled with re-purposed metal sculptures. Inside are a collection of prints and a table full of wine and lovely nibblies. (All of the galleries had these reception tables and, merely out of courtesy mind you, we felt we should imbibe at each.) Contemporary dancer, Sarah Day, barefooted and wearing a simple blue shift, accompanied by one small accordian, improvised a slow, gliding dance while interacting with one of the sculpture’s in the garden. This open-door telephone-booth fountain made for a delightful prop as Day played in the cascading water like a shy but curious animal. This was the only occasion when a dancer incorporated the space and art into her dance, and it befitted this gallery perfectly.

Flex dancer

We drove over to The Mill Gallery where we saw Flex Dance Company from the Motion Pacific Dance studios. On the walls, paintings of chickens (I didn’t really get that); on the concrete floor dancers. The movements were abstract, driving, and daring. Marlene and I, both veteran modern dancers from the East Coast, reflected fondly on our own early years dancing in unconventional dance spaces. (Back in the 80s I choreographed a piece called “Strange Rooms” after my company found itself rehearsing in an old chemistry lab.) Flex performs a full evening concert at The 418 Project on May 21 and 22.

Next stop, Santa Cruz Art League to explore their collection of local high school art. Much of it was quite impressive, though I almost always disagreed with the awards assignments. Zari Le’on performed in an Afro-modern style with a live duet singing “Down to the River and Pray.” I felt that this performance did not fit well in its environment. Surrounded by walls of student art, I’d like to have seen something youthful and contemporary, like street dancers. Look for Zari Le’on Dance Theater’s full evening production at The 418 Project on May 14 and 15. The 55th Annual High School Art Show at the Art League runs until May 16.

Natasha, Tamara, Misty

We decided to make one last swing by the Tannery to visit the Dead Cow Gallery slated for closure later this month. We were happily surprised to find that Tamara Nelson Bellydance was just preparing to dance. Tamara, joined by Misty and Natasha, performed a series of solo and group choreographies. Being close enough to really see Tamara’s clever and articulate belly rolls was truly delightful. Too bad this nice little space is closing. Look for the Tannery Arts Center’s First Anniversary Open House on June 5th.

All the galleries were well packed for these performances. I don’t know if the First Friday Art Tour is always this popular or if the dancers brot out new visitors. The dance certainly got me into town for the first time, but maybe not for the last. Marlene and I had a blast touring galleries we’d never been to before and hope FFAT will include dancers and musicians in their future events.

It was a great finish to an exciting week of dance thanks to the hard work Abra, Ch!p, and Hana, and the sponsors at SC Cultural Council, Downtown Association, City of SC and Motion Pacific. For details of the events I included above go to santacruzdance.com

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