Dance of the Disciples

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Isadora Duncan is a classic San Francisco figure. A natural libertine disdainful of convention and delighted by beauty, she stripped ballet of its soul-crushing shoes and flouted the idea of commercial success. For her, dance was life. Philosophies of improvisation, human emotion, and the natural body were the bedrock of her dance schools, and so encompassing were her theories, the most gifted students took her surname. Even today, 82 years after her death, Duncan remains one of the world’s most influential choreographers, yet her work is grossly underperformed. Enter Mary Sano, a third-generation Duncan dancer who trained with disciple Mignon Garland. Sano teaches the Duncan style in a studio just a stone’s throw from the choreographer’s birthplace. Every year, she and the Duncan Dancers unleash the Dionysian Festival to celebrate their icon’s birthday. At once earthy and ethereal, the dances are like myths that have leapt from the page. The poetry of everyday life is woven into painterly tableaux rich with exotic, winsome ritual. Chasing Duncan’s adventurous spirit, Sano often embraces Arab oud, Persian tar, Japanese taiko drum, and African sarod as well as Noh performers and theater writers. This year’s festival includes classical Indian dance, Japanese koto, and G. Hoffman Soto and his SotoMotion, which combines butoh, Brazilian dance, and martial arts. It is bound to be breathtaking.
Sat., May 30, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 31, 5 p.m., 2009

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