Raissa Simpson’s PUSH Dance Company Builds Vibrant Contemporary Dances To Gain A Deeper Understanding Of The Challenges Attributed To Mixed Heritage.

Recap | Bayview Opera House

Codelining 2.0 Kicked off at the historic 130-year old Bayview Opera House in San Francisco with a 6-week residency.

How has the project evolved since its first residency at the opera house? After the first initial residency at the opera house, it was clear to me — the experience — needed to happen again. The spirit behind creating a second version of Codelining probably stemmed from the urging and gentle nudging of Bayview Opera House director Barbara Ockel. She knows how to find the resources needed to make such a feat happen. I can’t thank her and the staff of the opera house enough for allowing me to continually experiment, creating whatever I want and however I see fit to make it.

Codelining 2.0 encompassed PUSH Dancers, a set of interns called, Pathways (which I’ll write about later) and interns from Bayview Opera House’s technical residency. I can’t forget to mention the steady stream of babies at the opera house. My son and rehearsal director Ashely Gayle’s daughter joined us for this round. Oftentimes it seemed the babies directed us, which was probably true in this case.

Aside from the new dynamics of this multigenerational process, I was excited to be in Bayview Hunters Point. Although District 10 is very much a part of the San Francisco, it can feel like it’s worlds apart. For an Artist to have a residency, being away from the hustle and bustle of the City is such a welcoming feeling. An example of this could be found in being surrounded by Ruth William’s legacy. Williams can be described as the Matriarch of Art at the opera house and the soul of the Black cultural and arts district.

The process allowed me to challenge myself in a new and exciting way by developing a solo. My last real stand-alone solo work was probably made in 2012 with “Study on a Butterfly.” The challenge behind prepping a solo was showcasing it before audiences at RAWdance’s CONCEPT SERIES. The choice to do so paid off because it set a minor milestone to have the work completed within three weeks of the residency. There were two major struggles with creating this solo: the music and the technology

Disclaimer: When I say “struggle” I’m not referring to people or interpersonal relationships but more about ideas and concepts laid out in the project.

Everyone loved the music. By “everyone” I mean the Artists dancing to the sound as well as the audience members listening to it. My collaborator’s (daevron – pronouns: they/them) talents stretch beyond creating media and technology for the piece. daevron was working with another dance company on composing music when I asked them to create something for Codelining 2.0. My feeling was that something with classical string instruments was needed to offset all of the electronic sounds in the dance. 

I struggled with the new sound because of the already predetermined pattern of having electronic music up until the end where a jazz score was introduced. However, when paired with the movement, the new score accentuated the phrasing of the movement to my delight. The easier course of action was to stick with the electro-pulsating sounds. The change was a welcome addition to Codelining 2.0 and the creation of a statement solo dance.

The next struggle is one that I’m not so sure I actually struggled with? With the new solo came an opportunity to use a MoCap suit. The function behind using the suit was to align the steps of the dance with the animation in the projected media. Perhaps the “struggle” was the perennial challenge of having a dance+ technology residency or in this case a strong Wifi connection. 

An Internet connection can determine whether or not an instrument of technology like a MoCap’s sensors on the dancer’s body be picked up by the program on a computer. It seemed with dance I can ask something of the dancers and get almost instant results. With technology, we wait, we troubleshoot, and then we work. Even the best Internet can’t account for this type of delay.

This brings me back to my thoughts around the mechanization of dance… But, this blog is already written without editing and very little filter. I’ll end here.