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Two For Three | Dance View Times

“Cariño” “Selección Natural”
Mayra Bonard
Joe Goode Annex
San Francisco, CA
November 20, 2015

by Rita Felciano
copyright © Rita Felciano 2015

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Two For Three | Dance View Times

If you live in the Bay Area and want to see contemporary dance from Argentina, you better go there. The best we can hope for around here is one more version of oversexed Tango. So the mere presence of choreographer Mayra Bonard and her trio of performers, Federico Fontán, Damian Malvacio and Rocio Mercado, should be a reason to thank Joe Goode who arranged their engagement. The fact that the two works they performed, “Cariño” (2011) and “Selección Natural” (2014), were emotionally complex, witty and celebrating sensuality helped. That they comfortably moved within dance, music, theater and comedy, and yet looked as if coming out of one mold made you wonder what else is there south of the border that we are missing.

Federico Fontán in “Selección Natural”. Photo © Alexandro Guyot

The program note describes “Cariño” as “the story of three young people entering into adulthood” within a closed environment. It’s a pretty good guide through an emotional and physical landscape that starts in childhood with the memory of a beloved chicken being eaten but “that stays inside you.” It segues into a piece in which ambiguity distills into certainty only to slip back into a nebulous state of being. If that is part of adolescence it’s also part of the life-long process of individuation that most us live through.
For all her theatrically smart, sometimes a little raucous instincts, Bonard has a refined sensibility. She ,designed the piece as a series of scenes that follow each other sometimes smoothly, sometimes almost topsy-turvy. They gradually reveal the dancers to themselves and each other. When in the end, they sing in harmony, you are left with a sense of completion. “Cariño” rides a current of discovery and embracing of sexuality and erotic play that is empowering, dangerous, funny and so very human. Touching themselves all over, the dancers discover their bodies, at first innocently, but it soon becomes a sensual even erotic experience. Mercado humps the floor (sort of) as a piece of showmanship but then, of course, she finds something else happening. A game of spinning a partner evolves into a testosterone driven competition between the two men in which they finally strip to present themselves (with backs to us) to Mercado. We see her eyes neutrally wandering from one to the other. It’s probably “Cariño’s” single funniest moment.

At another point Malvacio, who exclaims that “every man should look like you,” admires Fontán, who indeed looks like an Adonis. He gently offers his admirer parts of his body — ear, nose, Adam’s apple, an eye. Malvacio returns the favor by aggressively recommending to the audience part of his body — elbow, shoulder, hand. He also struts before us licking an orange and a red lollypop, challenging us to choose between the two. He may have done so in response to Mercado’s earlier sucking on two cigarettes simultaneously and blowing their smoke into guys’ ears.

In the homo-erotic duet Malvacio also turns the docile Fontán into a plaything, batting him back and forth. Putting him into toe shoes in which the latter stalked uneasily looked to me like an attempt to turn him a clownish, “beautiful” ballerina. For me these were darker moments but not without touches of humor. The verbal love declarations in different languages, however, felt like fillers, as did those to the audience which, wisely, didn’t answer them.

If “Cariño” offered a kaleidoscope of theatrical wizardry, “Selección Natural’s” simple almost linear structure offers a no less intriguing perspective on — we might as well call it — love. Fontán walks in and casually empties a wheelbarrow of apples and a couple of pumpkins onto the stage. Gathering them up, he constructs meticulous “road” onto which steps Mercado, a gorgeously languid dancer, with Fontán holding down the “stones.” Her progression, with her finely articulate fingers suggesting Indians mudras, was not as smooth and detached as probably intended. (Maybe Argentine apples are bigger.) Arrived at the last pumpkin, Malvacio extends his hand like a prince and guides her as she makes her way over Fontán’s rolling on the floor, his outstretched hands, his sliding legs. She might embrace the courtly Malvacio with her arms but her feet make love to “slave” on the ground.

In a later trio, full of sharp angles in the joints, reminded me of Southeast Asian dance on speed. It also showed that Mercado as the trio’s most refined dancer. “Selección’s” non-credited bell-like score worked well. However, Malvacio’s duet with the wheel barrow looked more inspired by a need for using this prop than from any dramaturgical need though he can’t be faulted for his two, fruit-based revenges. The Joe Goode Annex has never smelled better.