There can’t be many dance troupes that work harder or more full-out than the San Francisco-based High Risk Group, which kicked off a 10-week dance festival at Highways in Santa Monica on Saturday.
In the high-energy, punishing kinetic movement--the risky jumps and catches in the air, the flying push-offs from the floor, the involuntary groans arising from hard body slams--there was not a single instance of insincerity or fakery from artistic director (and chief choreographer) Rick Darnell, Richard Bord, Myles Downes and Clyde Smith.
Yet surprisingly, despite the AIDS-activist perspective, the works (presented under the rubric of “More Garage Dances: Engines of Art and Culture”) remained almost stubbornly on a level of intense but virtually abstract physicality. They rarely elicited emotional response, even though images of support, male bonding and gender-bending abounded.
Perhaps it was the frequent fast pacing that forbid single images to remain too long and resonate with feeling or intent. Perhaps it was the disjunctive structures. Perhaps it was the limited, recurrent vocabulary.
Admittedly, “Falling” was presented incomplete, lacking the film and soundtrack that will later accompany it. But no such claim was made for “Brides of Frankenstein,” yet portions of both pieces looked interchangeble with each another.
Probably the clearest touching moment was Smith’s slow imploding collapse in his “homeboys,” prompting swift, caring support from Bord and Darnell.
Still, the dancers must be inspiring teachers, for “My Dad the Inventor,” a piece created by students in their workshop, evoked the “community building” expressed in the group’s statement of purpose.