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Theater Grottesco explores insufficiency of words with two Oakland-based dance companies

From left, Eric Kupers, Tara Khozein and Danielle Reddick are shown from a scene when they worked together in Theater Grottesco’s “Moment of YES!” They also will appear in Saturday’s “Blessed Unrest.” (Courtesy of Marc Romanelli)

From left, Eric Kupers, Tara Khozein and Danielle Reddick are shown from a scene when they worked together in Theater Grottesco’s “Moment of YES!” They also will appear in Saturday’s “Blessed Unrest.” (Courtesy of Marc Romanelli)

SANTA FE, N.M. — What can you do when language is no longer adequate to describe the world we live in?

Randee Paufve of Paufve|Dance in Oakland is working with Theater Grottesco and Bandelion dance ensemble on “Blessed Unrest.” (Courtesy of Blaine Covert)

Randee Paufve of Paufve|Dance in Oakland is working with Theater Grottesco and Bandelion dance ensemble on “Blessed Unrest.” (Courtesy of Blaine Covert)

It’s that moment of discovering the insufficiency of words that Theater Grottesco is exploring in conjunction with two Oakland-based dance companies in “Bl essed Unrest, ” according to John Flax, Grottesco’s founding artistic director.

“We have some really fun directions we’re going with the breakdown of language,” he said.

At least that’s what the innovative Santa Fe company is looking into.

The participants from California include Bandelion, Eric Kupers’ core ensemble with the Dandelion Dancetheater.

Bandelion is working on a piece “trying to get at what it means to really live in the present moment,” Kupers said in a phone interview. “To not think about what you’re doing and actually be in it.”

And choreographer Randee Paufve, Kupers said, is providing pure, abstract movement to set atop the Bandelion performance, providing “a much more non-linear approach to physical things.”

In the week leading up to Saturday’s performance at the New Mexico School for the Arts, the groups are coming together in Santa Fe to see how they combine what they have developed so far.

While that might sound difficult, Kupers said he doesn’t find it so.

“That’s how I work anyway,” he said. “I work on lots of bits of material that feel important for some reason, but I don’t always know how they fit together.” Through exploration and experimentation, though, his ensemble members may help reveal “what links, what stories I didn’t even realize were there.”

The process is “so fun for us,” Flax said. “Eric and I started working together 12 years ago.”

The three groups’ common link comes through choreographer Della Davidson, with whom they all worked or collaborated at some point in her efforts to merge dance and theater, he said.

A faculty member at the University of California-Davis, she died in 2012.

They stayed in touch and are coming back together with the help of two consecutive grants from the Network of Ensemble Theaters to produce “Blessed Unrest.”

“It’s a great exploration. There are 13 performers onstage,” Flax said, including Grottesco members Apollo Garcia, Danielle Reddick and Tara Khozein, all of whom also worked with Kupers in “The Moment of YES!” which had several performances earlier this year.

The subtitle of the new production is “a Showcase of Works-in-Progress,” so don’t expect a polished, finished work.

Eric Kupers performs with his Bandelion dance ensemble, based in Oakland. (Courtesy of Hans Holtan)

Eric Kupers performs with his Bandelion dance ensemble, based in Oakland. (Courtesy of Hans Holtan)

As a matter of fact, Flax said, the whole point is the journey. Audience members will be asked for feedback afterwards, Kupers added.

The title of the piece comes from a quote from modern dance pioneer Martha Graham: “No artist is ever pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

The title is apt for the groups’ joint exploration.

“She was saying that about dancers,” Kupers said, “but it’s all people. We don’t have any certainty in our lives … . We don’t have the answers.”


A recent encounter with a friend who was passing through town and asked John Flax if they could get together is turning into a treat for the whole community.

Flax said he knew Ronlin Foreman from their time with the Lecoq conservatory in Paris during the 1980s.

When Foreman, who gained renown as a clown, said he was coming through Santa Fe while touring with “Pigeon Show: A Play of Fools,” Flax said colleague Kent Kirkpatrick suggested, “Why not present him while he’s here?”

“We don’t have the budget to do it, but we’re doing it anyway,” Flax said of the single performance that will be staged 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the intimate space of Teatro Paraguas, 3205 Calle Marie.

When Foreman was hired 13 years ago at Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre in California, for which he was director from 2011-15, he stopped performing, Flax said. But now he’s returned to the stage with what he’s calling his walkabout.

“He’s an amazing performer,” Flax said. “Recently, he decided to do an exploration of the relevance of theater … . He’s going around the world and exploring the question deeply: Is there a reason to do this anymore?

“It’s deeply personal. It’s hysterical. It will make you weep … . Come to be moved, because you will be moved.”

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