The Matter of Mating: Soul+Mates at ZSpace

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Photo by Jeff Zender

If there's anything in the world that would seem to have overrun its natural course, it's romantic love, and yet the public clamors after rumors of its persistence in these degenerate times. Printz Dance Project welcomes lovers, dreamers, and voyeurs of the lucky few to Soul+Mates at ZSpace Dec. 4-7 with a performance choreographed by Stacey Printz, a photography exhibit by Andre J. Hermann, and a short film by Teresa Brazen, all centered on the visual and topological possibilities of a white two-seater couch, the kind that happens to be marketed as the loveseat.

Hermann's black-and-white photos show couples in configurations of various degrees of public intimacy, some accompanied by the dog or child that creates a family portrait, as well as solitary figures who appear defiant, bemused, indifferent, all seated on the couch in outdoor locations.

Brazen's film challenges the couch's typically domestic context, featuring humans attempting to fit themselves into cramped household spaces: beneath a coffee table, in a bathtub, inside a washing machine, on a refrigerator shelf. A woman chalks a blue rectangle on the pavement and curls up inside it, an image that is simultaneously comforting and depressing. The music playing in the house before the show begins includes hits from Dirty Dancing and Breakfast at Tiffany's. The message seems clear: one size does not fit all.

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Printz's choreography is a blend of street and ballet, danced by a diverse dozen men and women dressed in black costumes with white and red piping reminiscent of cheerleader uniforms, sailor suits, and scout uniforms. The piece proceeds in lyric bursts of solos, duets, and the occasional trio, bound by group numbers that play with degrees of unison that single out like minds, whether of only two whirling in the chaotic masses or the entire assembly driven by the same impulse.

The couch is used to advantage as resting point and gymnastic equipment -- beam, vault, trampoline. Jenni Bregman outlines vacancies in a solo filled with longing. Suzy Myre perches precariously off the edge of the couch, tumbling from every balance into Dudley Flores's steady arms. Nhan Ho loiters hopefully, putting alarmingly desperate moves on anyone who happens by. Sadie Carhart and Amanda Lacro dance a heated duet highlighting the homoerotic nature of competition, all hair flips and sinuous posing, as the object of their affections observes in repose.

The hunger for love throughout appears more like the laws of sexual attraction than an internal search for the soul, represented as a churning of the guts or the duck-and-weave of a boxer expecting to be popped in the face or the pursuit of something delicate and liquid sliding endlessly through the fingers. The couch, earthbound and familiar, is replaced by the unstable altitude of a four-tiered swinging shelf, on which the dancers climb and dangle acrobatically. Printz and Jorge Vazquez, who open the show face-to-face in the crowd, anchor the evening in their duets. The two are almost mirror images, compact and muscular, blonde and brown, and move with maturity and sincerity that is deeply rooted into the ground and each other, powerfully signaling a quiet union within a world driven by the noise and commerce of desire.

Printz Dance Project presents Soul+Mates at 8pm December 4-6 and 8pm and 4pm December 7 at Z Space, 450 Florida St., S.F. Tickets are $22-$30; printzdance.org.

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