Stage

Brady Street Redux?
The Brady Street Dance Center, widely acknowledged as San Francisco's liveliest venue for low-budget dance performance, has lain relatively dormant since a bitter dispute erupted this spring among its principals. Now comes news that the venue's lease will be taken over by the San Francisco Dance Center, the city's major clearinghouse for dance classes.

As we reported here in March, disagreements between Brady Street leaseholder Keli Fine and acting Artistic Director Krissy Keefer had led to Keefer's resignation. With her departed the site's production team, Joe Williams and Matthew DeGumbia, who took their equipment with them. A contentious public meeting in March starring the four key players, as well as other choreographers and performers, seemed to produce some tentative points of negotiation. These, it turns out, were never actually pursued. "After Joey, Matthew, and Krissy pulled the lights," Fine says flatly, "I decided I would not consider working with them again." In May, she began negotiating with San Francisco Dance Center (SFDC), a nonprofit organization established by Lines Contemporary Ballet Artistic Director Alonzo King in 1989.

SFDC General Manager Pam Hagen and Artistic Director Susanna Douthit say Brady Street will remain a low-cost, widely accessible performance space. "It's very important that [Brady Street] be kept affordable," Hagen says. "To get good as a choreographer, one needs to be able to perform a lot." The pair say they will work to win back the events that came to represent Brady Street's adventurous and festive spirit: Summer/Fest Dance, Keefer's Women's series, and the Lesbian and Gay Dance Festival, which have since found other homes.

Douthit says she specifically hopes Keefer, whom she notes Alonzo King "has a great deal of respect for," will return to produce a series. Douthit will serve as Brady Street's new artistic director, as well as managing the classes at both Brady Street and SFDC. Keefer says she wishes SFDC "the best of luck" and says she will "consider Brady Street like any other space to produce work."

Other than a pervasive sense of relief that the space didn't return to its origins as a parts shop, as had been rumored, the reaction to the news has been mixed. The range reveals the vexed obsession the underfunded local dance scene has with the idea of "community," a term used ad nauseam to mean anything from the speaker's own inner circle of acolytes to anyone who has ever uttered the word "dance."

Oakland Ballet Executive Director Joan Lazarus feels the merger serves basically the same "community" that Keefer did. "That thing that Krissy has -- that she has touched a lot of lives -- Alonzo has that too," Lazarus notes. "He has long roots in the dance community. He has worked with almost everybody, and people think highly of him. Lines is not a closed shop. That part of Brady Street hasn't changed."

Some -- dismayed that Fine did not offer the lease to the departed trio, who had expressed interest in taking it over if Fine decided to give it up -- fear Fine hasn't honored the "community." One person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, "It seems vengeful [that Fine didn't include Keefer and company] -- disrespectful to the whole community."

But others are pleased that an organization, well-protected from the whimsies of individuals, is now responsible for Brady Street. It gets around the "community" question. "Krissy, Joe, and Matt obviously put a whole lot of work into the space and made it into a really happening performance space," says choreographer Stephen Pelton. "But why I'm so optimistic about Lines is that it's a different paradigm. It's like, OK, let's take someone who's not from within the 'community.' What's great about Lines is that they are completely outside of that whole mess."

-- Apollinaire Scherr

Damaged Flair
Damaged Care. Directed by Dan Chumley. Starring Ed Holmes, Victor Toman, Velina Brown, Keiko Shimosato, Michael Gene Sullivan, and others. Presented by the San Francisco Mime Troupe in Bay Area parks through Sept. 7. Call 646-0639 for a schedule.

The San Francisco Mime Troupe has a 36-year history of thumbing its nose at money, of doing free (and sometimes naked) street theater on current events, of lacerating what its head scriptwriter calls "the rule of capital," of keeping alive old traditions of political commedia dell'arte and leftist Brechtian theater -- and to its credit, faced with a booming economy and public shifts in taste away from political art, it's never given up.

Unfortunately, their shows these days are thin. Damaged Care is a new commedia-style play about health care, currently touring the local parks. It protests -- as one of the characters puts it, so no one will miss the point -- "this country's refusal to give all of its citizens free, loving, universal care," and late in the show some of the characters wave glimmering universal health-care cards, like the card Clinton once waved before Congress. "This country," of course, hasn't refused to give anyone anything: The term "this country," like the word "society," is too huge and impersonal to have any meaning when it's used with a word like "give." Republican senators may have banded together in 1994 to keep universal health care away from the people -- hoping to mollify their insurance-industry friends and rob Clinton of a second term -- but that's not quite the same thing.

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