Sharp & Fine

A blog for San Francisco-based dance company Sharp & Fine. Words (mostly) by Megan and Shannon Kurashige.

S&F Recommends: MAKING BELIEVE by Harry Bolles

by Megan Kurashige

Making Believe

We can’t recommend this album highly enough. Making Believe is a collection of eleven astonishingly lovely songs sung by Harry Bolles, whose voice is pure, gorgeously human, magic. Harry sings so beautifully and so effortlessly. He makes you feel happy and sad in all the best ways. He makes you long for all the things that are so easy to imagine as perfect. This is Harry’s first album and it features his brilliant guitar and ukulele playing, as well as the talents of a few of his great musician friends (Kim Cass, Nate Brenner, and Michael Coleman). It also has Harry’s version of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Skylark,” which is probably one of our favorite things in the world.

We love it.

If you saw our Queen of Knives, you heard Harry:

 

This is what he says about Making Believe:

This record represents the jazzier selections from my live set, which always includes at least one Hoagy Carmichael song (Skylark) and one Disney song (In A World of My Own). I like to have a wide variety of genres in my performances and I love to feature songs written by my songwriter friends. On this record I am proud to include a song by Jesse Rimler (I Am Wiser Now), a very talented musician and songwriter in Oakland, CA. I am attracted to a song’s melody first and foremost, and his song fit in with these other chestnuts very comfortably.
About the musicians: They are the cream of the crop. I am honored and humbled to be accompanied by such talent as these three men.

You can acquire this marvelous record for your own collection via Bandcamp HERE. Harry is asking a meager $5 for these gems, so it would be completely silly of you to deny yourself the pleasure of them.

Harry is a wonderful friend who recently moved to Brooklyn. He does magic tricks and builds guitars. We miss him very much. If you live in NY, you should follow him on Twitter and pester him to play a live show. Or get him to teach you how to play the guitar. Or do a card trick. The one with all the kings and queens is hilarious.

Harry

Photos by Laura Jones

S&F recommends: TIMEPIECE by Katharine Hawthorne

by Megan Kurashige

Every now and then, most often when we’re talking to our dancers or each other, we start discussing the difficulty of finding out what one might enjoy when presented with a glut of unfamiliar things. How would we find out about the dance shows we might like if weren’t dancers? How would we find out whether we even liked to watch dance at all?

So often, dance people bemoan the lack of non-dance people in their audience. “Why don’t they come?” we say. It’s easy to assume that people aren’t interested, that they don’t feel like putting in the effort, and sometimes we forget how distressing it is, in this time of no time, to squander an evening on something completely unknown. I can’t remember the last time I went to something absolutely alien just for the hell of it. I like going to new things, to different things, but I need a reason to drag myself out of my cozy routine, to surround myself with strangers and take in something for which I have no points of reference. What if I hate it? What if I’m so bowled over by the unknown that I can’t make a decision about whether it’s good or bad?

Which is a long winded way of saying that I really like recommendations. A recommendation from someone I trust is a reason to brave the strange and the hitherto unknown. I go forth confident in my expectation of some sort of quality, regardless of whether I like or dislike the experience. And I’ll have someone to talk it over with either way.

We want to start posting recommendations here. It’ll be fun. Our first one happens to be for a dance performance.

photo © Ben Hersh

photo © Ben Hersh

Katharine Hawthorne, who is creating the role of “the grandmother” in Queen of Knives, is one of our favorite dancers AND dance makers in San Francisco. She makes pieces that are deeply, satisfyingly smart. She excites your brain and makes you believe in the logic of whatever question she has chosen to ask of her dancers and herself.

She is presenting Timepiece, “an inquiry into the nature of time and our relationship to order and disorder,” as part of a program shared with Guilty Survivor by James Graham. We have been told that there is an alarm clock involved. Katharine herself will be performing, as well as the beautiful Megan Wright. It’s always a treat to see them perform, and we are excessively curious about that alarm clock.

Let Us Compare Chronologies
November 22-23
Joe Goode Annex
401 Alabama Street, San Francisco
Tickets, $15-$30, available HERE

hello, dancers.

by Megan Kurashige

We’re delighted to introduce the dancers working on Queen of Knives. Shannon and I were nervous about committing ourselves to dancing in this piece because we were anxious about the responsibilities of directing what will be our most elaborate show so far. But, we have such an incredible group of beautiful, brilliant people dancing with us that we are feeling much better about it.

Meet the folks:

Eric Garcia

Eric Garcia is new to Sharp & Fine. He emailed us in response to our call for a male dancer. We knew nothing about him, but we liked how enthusiastic and well-spoken his correspondence was and when he sent us a link to this dance film of his, we were hopeful. He has an amazing face and a very human, straightforward way of moving. We’ve worked with Eric for a few weeks now and he’s fantastic. His way of moving is so different from ours and it’s pushing us to put things together differently, to examine our habitual vernacular, and to enjoy the luxury of bouncing off his theatrical instincts. Eric also directs his own company, detour dance, which you can learn about HERE.

Katharine Hawthorne

Katharine Hawthorne is one of our co-workers at Liss Fain Dance, but this is the first time we’ve had the chance to work with her as choreographers. Katharine is one of our favorite movers and brains in San Francisco. She’s this gorgeously tall, spare woman who is tremendously adaptable and can go from slicing up huge spaces with her limbs to indulging in completely unexpected lushness. She also has an almost terrifyingly insatiable memory for movement and can learn things faster than you can make them up. Katharine is insanely busy, so we were nervous about asking her to join us and couldn’t believe our luck when she did. Katharine also choreographs and directs her own work, which you can learn about HERE.

Shannon Leyoldt

Shannon Leypoldt is joining us for her second Sharp & Fine project. We worked with Shannon for Love Songs and it was a sort of crash course in getting to know a body and way of moving that is entirely different. Shannon is an intensely beautiful, vivid, extremely generous dancer. She’ll push all the way to the edge of what a movement can be and this pulls your eye right to her. She’s also tends to move in very long, straight planes while we tend towards rounded, circuitous patterns. The translation between those tendencies is challenging and fascinating. Shannon also dances with burnsWORK, Nine Shards, and FACT/SF.

Carson Stein

Carson Stein has been with Sharp & Fine since the very beginning. She is a ridiculously powerful beauty who can do completely insane things as if they were nothing. She attacks movement with particular and intricate precision, has an enormous capacity for keeping strand after strand of choreography organized in her brain, and has been developing a surprising amount of theatrical moxie. She has an interesting  pull between the poles of loopy comedy and muscled, stoic nerve. She is also our co-worker in Liss Fain Dance, our roommate, and our very good friend.

Megan Wright

Megan Wright is joining us for her second Sharp & Fine project. We first worked with her on Love Songs. Megan reminds me of the heroine of a Howard Hawks movie. She’s a stunner who immediately catches your eye and holds it without mercy, but is unrepentantly silly and odd and wolfishly curious. Her movement is lush, rolling, and enormous. She has been a huge help in the thinking and questioning that we’ve had to do for Queen of Knives. She’s so smart and eager to follow both tangents and main lines and has a magical ability to attach important, but far flung ideas. Megan is a member of Margaret Jenkins Dance Company and works with several other excellent local choreographers.

magic tricks

by Megan Kurashige

Shannon Leypoldt in rehearsal

Shannon Leypoldt in rehearsal for Queen of Knives

Today, we had our fourth rehearsal for Queen of Knives. We are thinking hard about magic tricks. They’re beautifully constructed lies, stories of another version of reality that is both impossible and delightful, and even skeptical people often seem to hunger for the sensation of being fooled. But, why love them? In real life, being fooled, fleeced, conned, or made to believe in something that doesn’t really exist isn’t frequently a pleasure.

Shannon and I have always loved magic tricks. When I was a kid, I wanted to believe in them, wanted them to be proof that people could fly and tissue paper could turn into roses, but now I have a more complicated reaction, even if my affection remains absolute. I want someone to be so good at telling me their story, so confident in offering their finely built version of events, that I can’t detect a dishonest bone in their body. I want to believe in the face of impossibility. I want to be astonished by the skill with which someone tricks me.

Here are some things that we’ve been watching:

Here are some things that we’ve been reading:

Grist for the mill. Thoughts and more thoughts.

[ends]

by Megan Kurashige

Sarah and Kelvin

Megan here.

We haven’t talked about Love Songs as much as we should have or wanted to. Not because it felt like something less than our first piece, but because it took us by surprise, I think. We made some big changes in our lives, and that took us by surprise. We moved into an apartment in San Francisco, worked a lot, and discovered that when you tend to launch yourself at projects with blind enthusiasm and confidence, things become much more complicated when those projects involve other people’s time and money and lives. Not that this has stopped us from galloping on, but we are galloping on a moving platform that is running maybe just a little bit too fast, and we must run even faster or fall off.

The project itself was a surprise. In the very beginning, when it was just an idea, Love Songs was going to be called The Anatomy of Love. It was going to be a casual installation, a party, a big mashup of dance and audience and music, preferably involving covers of old love songs and charming local bands and choreography that played with being literally in the viewer’s face. Then, Summer Rhatigan at the SF Conservatory of Dance invited us to present something at this year’s Summer Dance Series (a sort of miniature dance festival that the school produces each year), so it turned into a theatrical piece. Then, a friend (Daisy Phillips, who is a stunning dancer… if you are in Europe, you should try to catch one of her shows) suggested that we think about using an opera singer. Then, one of our dancers mentioned that her sister was actually an opera singer, and that she lived in Los Angeles, and that she might be able to come up to the studio one day, just to play.

So, Love Songs became what it ended up being: a dance to songs about love and a collaboration with Ina Rae, a tiny, stunning soprano who is also one of the most generous artists/human beings that we’ve had the pleasure of working with.

When Ina came to a rehearsal in January, we were nervous. Would she be scared of moving? Would we know how to talk to her? Sometimes, music and dance seem to be two entirely separate things that stand on opposite sides of a very deep canyon and shout at each other. Ina blew us away though. She was daring, game for anything, and her voice was both enormous and warm, entirely human and wonderfully relevant.

Here’s a video of Ina and Carson improvising at that first rehearsal (link HERE, if the embed doesn’t work):

I think we took the easy route and assumed from the beginning that the piece would be about love. Not only about being in love, even though that is an easy way to grab onto people because everyone knows what that is, or thinks they know what that is, and we all have this knowledge or imagined knowledge shored up by stories and movies and songs, as well as our own lives; we wanted the piece to also be about love itself, which is almost more difficult to talk about, when you’re using dance to talk about it, even though it’s a looser, larger, less specific incarnation. I don’t know if we managed it. Dance that is performed always seems to be in conversation. Even when there is only one person moving onstage, they are tethered by the audience. They pull against them or open up to them or shut them out. And when you’re working with a small group of artists, like we do, and when you particularly believe in work that relies upon an emotional reaction and understanding from the audience, there is always an element of considering how another person makes you feel.

Shannon and Carson

Which isn’t bad at all, but it was interesting to see how the project pulled away from the possibilities of love for something (for vocation or art or belief) and toward the specific intricacies of love for someone. It was just easier.

What surprised me the most though was how it went beyond that and became, at least for me, less attached to my own cache of experience and instead overwhelmingly about the exact people in the project itself (Shannon, Carson Stein, Ina Rae, Sarah Woods, Kelvin Vu, Shannon Leypoldt, Megan Wright). We’re all friends, but I don’t know the everyday longings and dramas of all seven of them. We have varying degrees of familiarity. But, we worked hard in the studio together for months and I think Shan and I are lucky to work with people who are daring enough and brave enough to try for honesty, so we all get to know each other intimately within the world of the piece we’re building. That intimacy is enormous. Even if I don’t know their heartbreaks or happinesses, I know and trust each of them as artists absolutely.

I didn’t really understand this until we performed the piece for the first time and, while I felt like we were saying things to the audience, I mostly felt like we were talking to each other about love and trying to make ourselves as transparent as possible so we could show each other all the things, enormous and tiny, that we believe about it.

Shannon and Carson

Our last show was on July 30. We’re already working on our next project. It’s weird to be in a place where we can say, well, that was Love Songs. Finished, the end. I already miss it.

fifty yards of silk

by Megan Kurashige

silk-sign_web

On Thursday, we drove to San Rafael to visit Dharma Trading Company, a strange little store in the North Bay that sells dyes, yarn, and bolts of plain, uncolored fabric. We bought a fifty-yard bolt of silk charmeuse, a soft, decadent-feeling textile that has one smooth, shiny side and one dull side. When washed in hot water, it loses its shine and acquires a sueded, elegant character.

bolts_web

We are making seven dresses for Love Songs. They’re being designed and constructed by Emily Kurashige, our mother, who happens to be an extraordinary seamstress with a particular knack for making beautiful dresses.

Shannon has been putting together a Pinterest board of costume ideas, if you would like to admire photographs of beautiful, mostly old dresses. And, you should definitely admire this video of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Swing Time.

Emily will be making a different dress for each of the women in the piece. She’ll wash the plain silk in hot water to shrink it, then cut out the pieces, construct the dresses, and dye each one a different color. Dharma has racks and racks of inks and dyes. They mostly have ridiculous names. We will be Sage Leaf, Antique Mauve, Oxblood, Peacock, Peach, Honey Mustard, and Persimmon. And, Kelvin, the lone man and the only one who already has his costume in hand, will be Mr. Gray Suit.

dyes_web

by Megan Kurashige

Queen of Knives Postcard

Shindig

by Megan Kurashige

On Saturday, we’re throwing a party. This will be our first fundraising event. And, while it’s always difficult and sometimes embarrassing to ask people whether the work you’re doing is worth supporting with their attention and time and money, it’s also bracing, humbling, and inspiring. Part of the reason that we (and by “we” I mean me and Shannon… I won’t put words in the mouths of our collaborators) make art at all is because we want to say something and have it felt by other people. As awkward as it might be to go up to someone and say, “Hey, this is what we’re working on. What do you think? How does it make you feel? Is it something that you find likable, interesting, or moving enough that you want to see more?” it’s a refreshing interaction too. Extremely naked. Direct.

This will also be the first time that we show more than a few minutes of Love Songs to anybody, so we’re nervous about that. And excited.

We’re also pretty certain that the party itself will be extremely fun. So…

shindig-banner-2-web

Sharp & Fine cordially invites you to help us launch our 2013 season with a sweet shindig, celebration, bash, soiree… We will ply you with dance, live music, delectables, and libations.

This benefit event will help support Sharp & Fine’s projects for the year. In July, we will premiere Love Songs, a collaboration with opera singer Ina Rae. In December, we will present an evening-length adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s poem “Queen of Knives.”

We have a suggested donation of $20, which will go toward paying the magnificent artists who work with us and covering the costs of putting on two theatrical productions. We hope you will join us, meet us, talk to us, and see what we’re working on. Your interest and attention is an enormous gift.

We also hope you will have a wonderful time.

Sharp & Fine will show excerpts from Love Songs, which will premiere on July 2 and 30 at Z Space in San Francisco.

The fantastic Harry Bolles will sing some beautiful songs.

Make contributions and RSVP in advance through Brown Paper Tickets (any donations made through the Brown Paper Tickets link are tax deductible): http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/366635

photo-17

Beautiful Singing

by Megan Kurashige

We asked Ina to find an aria that is glorious and epic and full of blooming beauty. We want something lush and vivid, something so powerfully gorgeous that it verges on either heroic or overwhelming, uncrushable and incapable of being trodden down.

She sent us six different ones to listen to. They’re so beautiful that I feel like we should share.

1. “L’amero, saro costante” from Il Re Pastore by Mozart. This version is sung by Anna Moffo.

2. “Prendi, per me sei libero” from L’Elisir D’Amore by Donizetti. This version is Beverly Sills.

3. “Caro Nome” from Rigoletto by Verdi. This version is Edita Gruberova.

4. “Je veux vivre” from Roméo et Juliette by Gounod. This is Sumi Jo.

5. “Quel guardo il cavaliere” from Don Pasquale by Donizetti. This is Anna Netrebko.

6. “Una voce poco fa” from The Barber of Seville by Rossini. This is Lucia Popp.

Kelvin

by Shannon Kurashige

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Kelvin_2 small

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