Movement Arts Festival Celebrates Local Talent

by Heather DeSaulniers

San Francisco Movement Arts Festival (SFMAF) explores stations in its second annual performance.

Bus stops, toll booths, check-out lines—consider how many times in an average day you encounter one of these “stations,” places that require you to pause; places designed for a specific purpose.

San Francisco Movement Arts Festival (SFMAF) explores the theme of stations with an evening-length performance installation set within two of San Francisco’s most imposing cathedrals. On consecutive Fridays at Cathedral St. Mary of the Assumption and at Grace Cathedral, “Stations of the Movement” comes to life in 12 performance sites scattered in and around each church building: Station of the Commanding Labyrinth, Station of the Fury Road, Station of the Magnificent Seven at the Red Stone Sculpture and Station of the Stone Stairs Music, each of which offers short performance works; attendees roam through a living gallery of solos, duets and small ensembles, free to linger, move on or circle back to their favorites.

After a sold-out debut in January 2016, SFMAF returns with this second edition that emphasizes local talent, builds on last year’s momentum and is more expansive in scope. “The crux of the festival is a celebration of the local arts scene,” explains founder/director James Tobin, “an occasion that makes room for both emerging and established artists to share their work.” This year’s festival line-up supports this vision with a diverse group of Bay Area artists: San Francisco-based Lizz Roman, Colin Epstein, Julie-Ann Gambino and LV Dance Collective; Dance Attack and sjDanceCo from the South Bay; the East Bay’s Company C Contemporary Ballet and AXIS Dance Company; and many others. But as this is the festival’s second year, taking the event to the next level was also a big part of the equation

“For SFMAF’s new season, we were interested in broadening what it means to be a local festival, facilitating a dialogue between local arts communities by including artists from different cities,” Tobin notes. To that end, guest artists are part of the vast roster (over 125 performers), coming from Los Angeles, New York City, Palm Springs, Santa Barbara and Austin.

SFMAF is also extending its swath of artistic disciplines. “Initially our focus was on dance and movement, but that has evolved to include a variety of performance fields, like music, video, spoken word and visual art,” Tobin says. For example, performers include multidisciplinary theater artist Bernard Vash and L.A. performance artist Ania Catherine. And an eclectic mix of recorded scores greets visitors at the Station of the Stone Stairs Music, while film and cinema inform the offerings at the Station of the Fury Road. In addition, John Ligda and a number of visual artists will move about the entire space, painting and drawing the various scenes in real time. But choreography is still at the festival’s core; modern dance, contemporary and classical ballet are represented throughout the event. Of particular note is Station of the Magnificent Seven at the Red Stone Sculpture, which hosts seven powerful movement-based solos, composed and performed by women.

“I’ve always been interested in how performance, theater and sacred space can come together, and expanding to a second evening in a separate cathedral provides another opportunity to explore this dynamic relationship,” remarks Tobin. As for participating artists, Tobin says it is his hope that “they take away a joy for imaginative performance and being open to new kinds of events.” 

San Francisco Movement Arts Festival

Jan. 13, Cathedral St. Mary of the Assumption
1111 Gough St., San Francisco

Jan. 20, Grace Cathedral
1100 California St., San Francisco