Imagine two tribes, each with their own bizarre rules, rituals and mythologies.
Now imagine them interacting in the most awkward, affectionate manner possible.
That’s the central concept behind “StringWreck,” a playful collaboration that brings together the worlds of dance and music on stage.
Created by choreographers Janice Garrett and Charles Moulton, “StringWreck” is an adventurous “cultural collision” pairing two San Francisco performing arts groups, the Del Sol String Quartet and Janice Garrett & Dancers.
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“We’ve created a new thing. The dancers are dancing, the musicians are dancing, and the musicians are playing,” Moulton said.
“StringWreck” makes its Central Coast debut on Friday, the first time the show has been performed outside of the Bay Area.
“The story of every piece that we make is to try to get into as much trouble as we can, and then rely on the brilliance of the performers to get us out of it onstage,” Moulton said with a laugh.
According to Garrett, the choreographers approached the Del Sol String Quartet with a more traditional collaboration in mind.
“Charlie and I would make some dances. They’d play music for us,” she said, noting that they chose Del Sol because of its reputation for boundary-breaking experimental music.
As the two groups started discussing their approaches to performance, a more radical idea arose: What if the musicians joined the dancers onstage?
“Our goal at the beginning was to find things that everybody was uncomfortable with and really make them more uncomfortable,” Moulton said. For instance, he explained, “Musicians don’t like dancers careening by and knocking their scores over, or picking their scores up, or eating their scores.”
They’re particular about who plays their instruments. And they prefer being within hearing range of their fellow musicians.
“It’s difficult to play quality music when you’re being tossed around like a sack of potatoes,” Moulton quipped.
Dancers, meanwhile, use a different counting system than their string quartet counterparts, he said, making it difficult to match meters.Those differences only served as creative fodder for all involved.
“The dancers and the musicians really began to find a common language,” Garrett said.
After an intensive brainstorming workshop and months of rehearsal, “StringWreck” premiered in April 2008 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
The result, which marks the choreographers’ first collaboration as a couple, could be described as cheerfully controlled chaos.
During the course of “StringWreck,” four dancers interact with four musicians with irreverent intimacy.
Music stands and musicians alike are picked up and positioned around the stage. Dancers waddle like ducks with violins tucked between their legs. Instruments fly through the air.
In one of the show’s most humorous moments, dancers and musicians gargle water in unison.
“They actually sing,” Moulton said.
The action is set to a stirring soundtrack that includes Astor Piazzola, George Antheil and the classic children’s song “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”“There’s a feeling of two groups coming together to share their humanity,” said Garrett, noting that much of “StringWreck” was inspired by improvisational games and exercises.
Moulton, her collaborator and life partner, agreed.
“Whenever two groups come together like this, it’s very human,” he said.
Connecting with audiences
So far, audiences and performing artists alike have embraced “StringWreck,” Garrett said.
She points to one review by San Francisco Guardian writer Rita Felciano that begins with the line, “Gimmicks are all the rage these days.”
Feliciano goes on to explain that while “pulling the members of a string quartet out of their chairs to have them interact with dancers sounded like a clever marketing device,” “StringWreck” is actually “a deliciously entertaining, slightly wacky evening of music and dance that could charm a turnip.”
“There’s something about the piece that people really seem to connect to and resonate with,” Garrett said.
“We are very concerned with making work that reaches across the footlights of the stage and collects with the audience,” she said. “We’re really looking at that process of trying to build connectivity.
Reach Sarah Linn at 781-7907.