College Of Marin Concert, November 2014
Why does IE/ID never miss a COM dance concert? There are several reasons:
First, I go to watch the pieces of Sandra Tanner Mack. As Sandra’s student and friend of many years, I enjoy watching her engaging choreographic development. Each piece, although unlike the last, has certain threads that are re-threaded and re-woven into an intriguing dance tapestry.
Sandra’s piece, The Ties that Bind, relied upon the cast of 6 women to develop the piece through theatrical movement dialogues and ensemble responses. The program notes defined the women as a family: “Free Thinking Sister, Obedient Sister, Youngest Most Impressionable Sister, Frivolous Sister, Elder Aunt, and Younger Aunt.” Initially, their dancing was a response to their needs to connect or disengage from one another other as people, and as a “Family.”
This theme continued to develop and it was easy to recognize “Free Thinking Sister,” as she stood and danced apart from the group with her book. The piece’s climax began when the “Aunts” and the “Sisters” took the book away from her and proceeded to tear it apart. In the hands of another choreographer, with less delicacy, the dancers’ might have over dramatized the protagonist’s and oppressors’ movement responses.
But Sandra has developed her ability to stage subtle dramatic pathos in previous pieces like “Bereft.” In The Ties that Bind, the dancers gave us not only the despair of the “Free Thinking Sister;” the disapproval of the “Aunts;” but also the diffuse confusion, and tentative complicity of the “Sisters.” Each “Family” member held the “Free Thinking Sister’s” book, with a certain carefulness as they tore a page from its spine. They proceeded to pick and whirl through these scattered pages, dancing with serious purposefulness and agitated distraction. It seemed the “Sisters” were unable to resist the power of the “Aunts” in the sacrifice of “Free Thinking Sister.” However, there seemed to be a lingering sadness in the “Sisters.” The heaviness of their shredding gestures, the way they played off the movements of each other hung in the air, like a sense of coming despair, fleeting, but impossible to ignore. Perhaps each sister sensed she was loosing something of herself by destroying “Free Thinking Sister.” In the final scene, “Free Thinking Sister,” took some sort of medicine from the “Aunts,” and collapsed into a heap on the couch, crumpled and desolate. The ending was strange and sad. To me it seemed interrupted, almost unfinished.
Why else does IE/ID go? Because I see talent’s raw budding, and I appreciate that freshness. There are the dancers who stand out because you hear their bodies sing,like an instrument that is somehow inside and outside the music. Their world seems complete and full, making me want to come inside with them, if only for a few minutes.
College, whether community or otherwise, is the beginning of a path with an unseen end.
To the Dance