One evening earlier this month, a Twister mat lay on the floor of the Joe Goode Annex theater in San Francisco, and a black-and-white video of someone’s trembling anus projected on the back wall.
Felix Sol Linck-Frenz of Lxs Dxs, the experimental dance collective, sat cross-legged on the floor, chopping vegetables in front of a pressure cooker, while Stephanie Hewett mixed glassy techno. They joined with Jubilee July in everyday gestures—hopping, walking, swinging—while coolly discussing how the body holds tension, and the demands of movement technique. The tone was relaxed even as they turned to stare directly at the crowd and debate asking for a volunteer to spin the Twister arrow, generating new choreography.
When one of them wondered aloud if that’s “too much pressure,” it wasn’t clear if they were speaking about the audience, themselves or the vegetables. And by this point the bodily imagery, still projected on the back wall, became a symbol of vulnerable reciprocity in a performance setting. At the ding of the crockpot, they lifted the lid and the smell of stew filled the room.
Iz 2 Tite, Lxs Dxs’ clever meditation on force and consent (between collaborators as much as between dancers and crowd), began the first weekend of performances at the 11th annual Fresh Festival, which also organized a vast array of workshops and instruction for the dance community. The festival, produced by Kathleen Hermesdorf and her musical collaborator Albert Mathias’ dance company La Alternativa, with José Navarrete returning as co-curator, is an outlet for local and international artists exploring the rocky terrain between dance and multimedia performance art.
Now in its second decade, Fresh Festival’s performance programming remains a bastion of experimentation. In an about-face from the 2019 theme of “reckoning,” this year performers worked from the prompt “tender”—though that didn’t preclude madcap improvisation and outlandish theatrics. Lxs Dxs’ stew would not be the only food artists offered the audience.
Raine/Vortex, by Fresh fixture Sara Shelton Mann and New York artist Jesse Zaritt, was a riveting bout of emotional whiplash. Zaritt moved nonstop, strafing the stage like someone who’s intimidating to pass on the sidewalk. Mann, who’s known for contact improvisation, danced hardly at all, opting for a microphone. I only caught snippets of one monologue (“Do you remember? ... We were roasting a pig”) above a booming torch song. In another, Mann recalled her decades-long relationship with the neighborhood’s shifting arts spaces in a vertiginous rush.