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Wendy Rein and Ryan Smith began dancing together 15 years ago at Brown University, and their chemistry behind the camera and on stage is unmistakable. When they brought their company, RAW Dance, to San Francisco, they attracted a roster of similar-minded local dancers, including Dudley Flores, pictured here. Their mission was to attract new folks to dance—the type who might not be caught dead at a ballet opening night gala.
Hence, projects like the Concept Series were born—its 13th run is this weekend. It's an intimate setting; more like a salon than a formal performance. The audience sits in a circle, sometimes on the floor, kids are welcome, and popcorn is eaten. If ever there was an entree into the world of contemporary dance, this is it.
We wanted to put the dancers in street clothes that were comfortable enough for dance, but chic enough to wear outside the studio. We found just that in T by Alexander Wang and some other lesser known brands at Azalea and Rand & Statler in Hayes Valley.
We chatted with Ryan and Wendy to find out what to expect this weekend:
How long have you been performing the Concept Series?
We started the Concept Series in 2007, and we do them two times per year, in the fall and spring. So this will be our 13th. The math doesn't exactly add up because we snuck an extra one in one year.
What was your inspiration for creating a more casual dance performance?
The inspiration was somewhat twofold. Our mission is to bring dance to people—to bring new audience members and educate them a bit more. This show breaks down that uptight barrier people have around contemporary dance. We love ballet and all types of dance, but it can feel a little intimidating and stuffy. This is more like a movie night, that's why we serve popcorn. You could come in your pajamas! Most people don't do that, but that's the vibe we're going for.
The other thing was for performers. A lot of times you perform something once and never revisit it. Or you don't show something until you've been rehearsing for eight months. This is an opportunity for dancers to test out work along various points of progress.
Anything in particular we should watch out for in this performance?
We're reviving a duet from Hiding in the Spaces Between (performed two years ago), which means we maybe also be reviving the silver lame costumes.
Speaking of costumes, did you like wearing the clothes you wore in the photo shoot?
I dont think either one of us wanted to take them off or give them back. They were super comfortable—both neat and pulled together but also like we were in our PJs. Like the Concept Series! High art but with complete comfort. I can't believe I just made that association.
That's so awesome, I hope I typed it accurately. What are you guys wearing this weekend?
That's a very good question! I guess it's also a time for us to try out new aesthetics. We'll probably try out some costumes for a piece that's going to premier in December. The thing that's always key for dance clothes is you have to make sure you can partner and not injure each other. I've been cut on stage by a zipper. Everything on the costume has to be smooth and flexible. There might be some shiny silver involved—we'll have to try them on and make sure we still feel comfortable after two years. Basically it will up in the air until the last minute.
Just like many women getting ready for a night out.
Yes, you don't know until the curtain goes up and the popcorn is popped.
Catch one of three performances of the Concept Series this weekend at 8pm on Saturday, March 9, or at 3pm or 8pm on Sunday, March 10 at the 66 Sanchez Studio, 66 Sanchez Street (between 14th and Duboce) in San Francisco. In addition to Ryan and Wendy, guest dancers will include Randee Paufve, Alison Williams Dance, MFDP|SF, Here Now Dance Collective, and Shinichi Iova-Koga with Larry Ochs, Dohee Lee, Gretchen Jude, and Jason Hoopes.
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