The weather gods shed tears just as performers Nina Wu, Chelsea Hill and Nicole Casado of the Sarah Bush Dance Project began to ascend the massive stone staircase at Oakland’s Woodminster Cascade last Sunday afternoon, Mar. 20. Grey skies did nothing to dim the grandeur of the surrounding redwoods, Monterey cypress, olive and eucalyptus stands. Clad in starkly chic blouses and voluminous layered skirts in black and white – attire one might think wholly unsuited to a wilderness expedition – these graceful, intrepid young women scrambled and leapt and rolled and grappled their way up the 242 granite steps, dodging hypothetical bullets and slaying imaginary dragons en route.
The musings of three pioneering Bay Area women artists -- Gertrude Stein, Isadora Duncan, and Ina Coolbrith -- whose lives intersected in the late 19th century, punctuate Sarah Bush’s “Reach,” the second in a triptych of springtime outdoor performances celebrating the wilds of Oakland, This Land: Oakland.
The first part was performed a month ago. Dubbed “Recreate,” it featured a quintet of ninjas in hoodies and sweats who seized the Lake Merritt waterfront, under the stern gaze of the Greco-Deco Alameda County Court House. Majestic vocalist Gina Breedlove held sway, delivering an urban jungle scat. In a witty moment, the dancers swung their legs over the waterfront railing and hung upside down, the sparkling lagoon as their backdrop, while Breedlove intoned, “We are learning to breathe underwater.”
Watch a short video excerpt of "Recreate", performed at Lake Merritt on Sunday, Feb. 21: