photo credit: M. Kertsz
Dana Lawton Dances HOME (The Flight Deck, Oakland, CA/ The Crescent Arts Center, Belfast, N. Ireland/ Center Stage Theater, Santa Barbara, CA)
In today’s mobile society, home is more of an idea than a place, one that implies comfort and community with others of increasingly diverse origins. But if home is where the heart is, where can it be found, and what is it for the many who wander and are lonely? Dana Lawton Dances, an American company based in Oakland California, now in its ninth year, considers the metaphorical, emotional, and geographic aspects of home in Home. With a company of 10 performers, ages 23 to 68, Dana Lawton Dances draws on their lives and experiences to explore stories, relationships, perspectives, and possibilities. In keeping with past performances, Home features live musical accompaniment, as well as original songs composed by longtime collaborator Sean McCue.
“Where thou art, that is home.” – Emily Dickinson
Santa Barbara, CA is my hometown. My parents still live in the house where I grew up. When I go HOME to visit, my brother and I, (both married and moved away for over twenty years) still sit at the table
in the same chairs we occupied as children. This is HOME.
Thanksgiving. My Mom and I make ‘mama’s stuffing’ for the inside bird every year. There are horseshoes, wine, music, a fire pit,
and the gathering of family.
This is HOME, the familiar fabric of my life.
HOME is a place I know.
So how do I explain the moment I walked into a dance studio,
completely unassuming, and found a HOME
without prior knowledge of tendus, chasses or leaps across the floor?
A new HOME in my body, with like-minded spirits,
a language of movement that made the world right?
I feel at HOME on the dance floor, listening to Jon play slide guitar.
I feel at HOME on the beach with the sun shining on my shoulders.
I feel at HOME when I sip wine with friends.
I know I am HOME when my children greet me in the morning
and want pancakes for breakfast.
HOME is geographical. HOME is physical.
HOME is emotional. HOME is metaphorical.
HOME is where you are whole.
Beyond This Moment
photo credit: M. Kertsz
Dana Lawton Dances Beyond This Moment (Ashby Stage, Berkeley, October 2013), premiered of an evening length contemporary dance work which explored time, memory and loss. Directed by choreographer Dana Lawton, this work was a culmination of a two-year collaboration with dancers while integrating original live music and innovative set and lighting design. Ms. Lawton took this leap from independent choreographer to company director with Beyond This Moment, representing a vital step in her trajectory as an artist. The project provided performance opportunities for a wide range of dancers, musicians and visual artists, expanded Ashby Stage’s programming to include dance, and enriched the vibrant artistic community for Bay Area audiences, toured the Center Stage Theater (Santa Barbara) and France.
Blackbird Original arrangement by Michelle Beauchesne and Sean McCue
“My first memory is dancing with my Mother. I am not yet a year old and we are in the living room on wall-to-wall carpet. It is raining. Simon and Garfunkle are singing Bridge Over Troubled Water on the stereo my Dad built in college. She is holding my little hands and smiling down at me. I still tear up 47 years later every time I hear that song. When I see lard, cold and solid in a coffee I think of my Great Grandmother. When I eat trout for dinner my Great Grandfather is with me. The smell of Coppertone and I am transported to every summer I spent in Del Mar. The weight of my sons in my arms brings me back to the first time I held them fresh from my belly. The taste of tequila… I am 23 years old in the parking lot, before one of Jon’s gigs, getting ready to dance the night away with my best friends. I remember the phone call that Lynn succumbed to her cancer and I cried for hours/days/months…I am still crying. They say it is a matter of survival that we can’t remember everything. We would not be able to function. What we forget is necessary to our ability to move through our lives. But what we remember, cherish, hold dear confirms our existence.”
During the rehearsal process, Lawton drew from the dancers to share personal stories, investigating moments in their lives from childhood to the present. Improvisation, open dialogue, and written exercises were incorporated into the rehearsal process to aided in choreographic exploration and fostered a deep connection among company members. These wellsprings of personal stories were crafted choreographically and set to a rich and varied musical score. Blending their backgrounds in classical, rock, blues/folk, and country, the musicians; Michelle Beauchesne, Bill Flores, Jon Lawton and Sean McCue, created an eclectic and inspiring score for the evening.
Lighting designer, Linda Baumgardener collaborated with set/costume designer, Rogelio Lopez and explored lighting as a scenic element rather than merely an illumination source. Examining the physical stage space and overall visual picture of dancing bodies, their original designs created an environment that transformed the theater into an inviting and dynamic performance space.
Wedding the artists’ ideas viscerally though movement, visually through design and spatially through both, this process brought together seemingly disparate artists and art forms culminating in an evening of eclectic, inspiring and moving live performance.
The Silence Of…
Silence of the Sick original composition by Stephanie Webster
Silence Of… Choreography by Dana Lawton, composition by Stephanie Webster
Premiered at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music spring 2014
A twenty-minute piece in six sections based on the poem “Silence” by Edgar Lee Masters examines the Silence of the Sick, the Silence of Defeat, the Silence of Age, the Silence of the Dead, the Silence of the Stars and the Silence of the Father. Hauntingly beautiful, the piece is danced to a live orchestra and leaves the audience questioning the powerful nature of silence.
18 Virgo Horses
2011 Dana Lawton Dances
Counter Pulse, San Francisco, CA
Rita Felciano (San Francisco Bay Guardian) wrote, “In her new solo Del Mar, Lawton opened the program with a tribute to 1950s-style Hollywood bathing beauties and cowboy singers. Toy horses encircled a round swimming pool in which Lawton, encased in a demure Esther Williams swim suit and aqua cap, paddled, floated, and dreamed as she listened and responded to lyrics about an old house and a boy and his horse. So simple, so evocative, so delicious.” www.sfbg.com
Who is She?
San Francisco International Arts Festival (SFIA)
Magic Theater, San Francisco, California
May 21, 22, 2010
Who Is She? in collaboration with Cathy Davalos, Jia Wu, and Rosana Barragan, along with composer EJ Youngblood, lighting designer Linda Baumgardener, and set designer David Gaylord. Joanna Harris wrote “Lawton’s work offered moments of mystery, questions of birth, an adventure in dressing and movements of play, all aspects of women’s world.” In addition, she called the ending of the piece “mesmerizing.” www.culturevulture.net