Creative expression illuminates Grace Cathedral at SF Movement Arts Festival

Movement Arts Festival/Courtesy

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In the halls of Grace Cathedral, elements of silence and sound, stillness and movement merged together in harmony as the San Francisco Movement Arts Festival unfolded. Dancers from the Bay Area and beyond gathered to showcase their amazingly diverse repertoires, surrounded by stained glass and shining lights. 

For the ninth year in a row, BayAreaDanceWatch, a nonprofit organization dedicated to dance, presented the beloved and locally celebrated San Francisco Movement Arts Festival to commemorate the vibrance and resilience of performance art in the region. The festival was set up with rotating performances circulating the pews and altars of the cathedral, creating perpetual movement.

 Once audiences were within the hall, they became part of a sense of timeless eternity and magnificent fluidity. At the main entrance, an arresting display of six women in white and a robed man in black framed the doorway. The exhibit was intriguing and intensely majestic, with each woman wearing a slightly different dress and posing in a unique, goddess-like stance. The robed man, who was otherwise silent and unmoving, uttered incomplete lines periodically, such as “Traverse through all of life and death to live.” The performance was thought-provoking and bewitching, evoking mythological grandeur. 

In the center of the cathedral, a young group dressed in black danced in a blooming circle, opening and retracting themselves like evening buds. Their arms were outstretched gracefully, yellow and blue umbrellas in their hands forming petals. In moments of stillness, they showcased their strength and control. 

After a stunning rendition of a routine from “The Nutcracker” put on by a youth group, Kaita Lepore Mrazek took the center of the cathedral in a flowing, firefly-green tulle skirt. Her act was minimalistic yet captivating, featuring a wonderfully played piano accompaniment. The dancer’s movements carried a dreamlike cadence to them, and her effect on the audience was enchanting. She was able to retain a sense of fragility as she lay down on the ground with queen-like magnificence. The flowing layers she wore marked the path of her movement and highlighted the cyclical nature of her routine. 

A few rounds after this act, Bonnie Crotzer performed a solo act. Dressed in a Grecian-style translucent robe, she began in an archer position before lying down in a pose of vulnerability. Crotzer mirrored her face with her hands like a veil as strains of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” played. She took brave leaps and plunges, tracing an effortless path. The grazing of her arms across her back was beautifully done, and it seemed as if her performance fluctuated in synchronization with the flow of time. The control of her muscles was exquisite without being forceful. 

One of the last acts of the night featured a ring of young boys singing a traditional hymn while surrounding a female duo in golden flowing robes. The dancers supported and balanced each other skillfully, and there was an amazing tension and dynamic as the two pulled and carried each other. The dichotomy between the emotionality of the voices and bodies was hauntingly beautiful. The most astonishing moment came when one performer held the other up while her eyes remained forward. The two dancers then leaned into each other as they spun and moved in harmony, closing the circle.

The last performance of the night was an innovative performance by the Quimera dance group with choreography by Anandha Ray. Jim Tobin, the founder of the San Francisco Movement Arts Festival, noted in his address to the audience that the performance was meant to represent living sculpture. The two dancers reverberated with each other’s energy, bringing a resounding conclusion to the evening. 

The San Francisco Movement Arts Festival displayed the immense diversity and range of dance as an artistic medium. Its vibrance has drawn audiences inside and outside of the dance circle for years, and with a repertoire this incredible, the festival will likely continue to do so in the future. 

Contact Luna Khalil at [email protected].