Evolution of a Native Species

San Francisco is home to a dance scene steeped in contact improvisation, a phenomenon born of the 1960s counterculture. Part social movement and part art form, CI uses weight-sharing and counterbalance to create spontaneous, sometimes gasp-inducing dances between frequently sweat-pant-clad partners and groups. In the 1970s and ’80s, a generation of our very own local dancemakers began evolving the form for the stage by combining the pattern work of choreography with the spontaneous feel of CI’s unexpected encounters. Among the latest in the S.F. lineage to add his own twist to the tradition is Shannon Preto, a dancer with contact pioneer Scott Wells’ company; Preto’s own group, Dance/Theater Shannon, brings new and restaged work to its "Premiere Home Season" this month.

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Preto’s unique brand of contact partnering is born of his immersion in Body/Mind Centering, a somatic practice that, in part, reapplies to adults the developmental movement patterns humans progress through from the womb. “Swimming” and “After the Collapse” hint at an organic physicality, while the polka-influenced “It Never Gets Old” proves that the hallmark playfulness of the local contact community is alive and well. Then there’s the curious “Dancing with Myself,” an improvised duet between a real dancer and a projected dancer manipulated by in-the-moment video editing. Seems Preto’s approach echoes what CI practitioners have claimed for years: Things get more interesting when you’re willing to leave a little to chance.
Feb. 28-March 1, 8 p.m., 2009

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