Here are some reflections from the audience/participates of “Last Blue Couch in the Sky.”

 

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Once again, Epiphany Dance Theater “knocks it out of the park” with a progression of site specific performances highlighting the long history of displacement and gentrification in one part of San Francisco. Starting at Tutubi Plaza, winding through the culturally rich SOMA neighborhood, with performances at, on, in, and around local landmarks; this fascinating troupe of athletic performers, actors, dancers, musicians, and singers give voice and movement to an ambitious story rich of characters and tales both past and personal. Bringing life to Brian Goggin’s sculptural installation, Last Blue Couch in the Sky successfully marks Epiphany Dance Theater’s 20th Anniversary; while breaking the boundaries of the 4th wall, with outdoor and indoor action taking place on the floor, walls, stairways, mezzanine, railings, and the ceiling of the Forum at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts!!!

* James Hunter

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We are standing still while the City grows smaller in our rear view mirrors. We swear we’re not moving at all, but the pavement is sliding underfoot and away. The vertigo is more emotional than physical–a lying on your back in Dolores Park kind of feeling. Living in San Francisco is an exercise in counting “befores”, a steady sensation of saying goodbye in mid-conversation to a lover who swears she has no intention of leaving.

Enter Kim Epifano, who for more than 20 years has been making work in this City that’s grounded us in a social center while stretching towards San Francisco’s physical limits. She has managed to make defined communities the successful END rather than the procedural means of her aesthetic vision. Her work models a vision for community development and documentary at the intersection of deft, provocative artistic expression. Most pertinently, with Last Blue Couch in the Sky, she is executing a practice of community access in a moment of heightened historical erasure.

This new piece meets two parallel ambitions at YBCA, aesthetic and socioacademic. Its lead artist has a huge structural vision that maintains its shape because of the strength of its emotional core. The length that we are willing to travel in order to intellectually and demographically support this work is reflective of how much we trust that Ms. Epifano can pull off something special. As we close our 2016-17 Performing Arts season, we look to Epiphany Dance to ground us in memory, not just nostalgia, but the magic of the folks who made San Francisco matter…

MARC BAMUTHI JOSEPH

CHIEF OF PROGRAM AND PEDAGOGY, YBCA

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Kim Epifano’s piece The Last Blue Couch in the Sky was wonderful mixture of of a high quality dance performance, interwoven in a historical city tour of back alleys and a magical visit to the Yerba Buena carousel.  I love how this dance piece took us through a slice of the city at dusk with a low sun creating a glow to the buildings as a back drop to the dancers’ performances.  There were lots of magical moments I can’t come up with one favorite but here are a few, at one point a dancer is perched on a third floor fire escape hanging from the banister and sliding down the ladder.  The dancing was acrobatic and bold and the building was a beautiful Victorian gem creating a back drop and prop for this lithe dancer.  It was such a beautiful setting with the moon hovering over the scene, I was drinking in all the beauty of the moment.  There is something to be said about the moment.  It feels like such a fleeting treat to be walking the streets of San Francisco and catching these short story dances about the history of the earlier inhabitants of the neighborhood.  It had the feel of being taken on a tour back in time to visit the ghosts of the past in our present setting.  The past and the present collide for this short moment, and we the audience are the lucky recipients of this blast from the past. Another especially wonderful part of the dance was when the dancers and audience converge on the Yerba Buena carousel.  Again it has this surreal feeling of being caught in time, a short and special moment of dance, art and history that you the viewer were lucky enough to happen upon.

* Beth Greenfield

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Last Blue Couch in the Sky was stunning, real, and so necessary.  Kim Epifano has a gift at drawing forth the unique expression and courageous narratives from each of her collaborators.  I wept several time thinking about how this rapidly changing city and was taken back to pulse of SF in the 90’s.”

THANK YOU! AMAZING WORK KIM, YOU’RE A BEAST!

* Nicole Klaymoon

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It was my first time experiencing a live performance in various locations and each time the characters were sharing a short story.

It’s like reading a book and suddenly being transported to the a different setting and each setting is an interplay of different stories coming alive in different lights, colors, forms and textures.

There was never a dull moment throughout the three-hour show. It was very engaging all the way.

Congratulations to the cast and crew and esp Kim! More power to you and your team.

* Yolanda Dizon

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Kim Epifano, true to form, brought together an intense tapestry of dance, commentary and place.  San Francisco is at it’s best when it is a vibrant and engaged community. Kim pulled spirits from the neighborhoods under our very feet, whose stories reawakened our respect for the hard working immigrants who built this city and whose presence add flavor both literally and figuratively. It was obvious Kim did her homework of both the physical space and its cultural history. Her deep learning could be felt through the vast array of cohesive dancers who enlivened both in large group dance and theatrics and small intimate moments as we meandered Soma. It wouldn’t be doing it justice to say the show culminated in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts theater, as the indoor show was nearly a complete performance in itself.  True to form she engaged us with story, dance and set design derived from the real fabric of people and place. Bravo Kim, bravo.

* Todd Laby

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This performance was pure San Francisco.  The audience walked through the streets, the dancers had come to know the neighborhood and the people living there by rehearsing in the streets.  We were told stories of people who lived in the neighborhood in different times as well as now.  The narrative in the movement and stories wove together to create a layered experience that was raw and real.  Real because living in the street is a reality for many people nowSo being on the street, though we weren’t homeless, gave us a taste of the raw edge, the constant movement, and the exposed and unpredictable nature of being on the streets. Blue Couch was also pure San Francisco in the choreography     and movement style, and in the layered presentation including live musicians, locally made artwork, singing, dancing, theatrical elements, and, again, a kind of raw energy that I associate with San Francisco dance.

I loved all the stories from the dancers themselves – so many from other countries – there was an accumulating feeling of personal journey – San Francisco is a place that people come to with so much hope.

In the Forum we sat in a circle facing outward – a twist, and a confusing one for some people, but I loved the perspective it offered.  The dancers performed in clumps around the edges of the space, so at any given time we could see only one clump of dancers, with sound from the other dancers filling the space behind

  1.  Eventually the dancers were swirling by more and more quickly, so one clump was replaced by another clump, and it felt like a river, but it was flowing in a circle. In the audience we knew were were only seeing part of the action.  I felt Kim was offering us an experience of only seeing part of the story at any one time – we only ever know part of the story – someone else’s story.

The performance was long and complex, but for me the emotional impact grew and grew – slowly my emotional world got fuller and fuller until I was near tears, and by the end I noticed other people wiping away tears.  This was not hit over the head emotional but more an ache of collectively recognizing others’ suffering and witnessing a shared sorrow.

In the end we swiveled around and faced the center of the space and the dancers performed in the center.  This was powerful – finally we get to face each other and all watch the same thing.  It really amped up everything that happened beforehand – to go from feeling limited by our perspective to being able to see everyone – performers and audience – all at once.

Kim’s solo was most powerful, a gathering of the whole piece and an almost witch-like expression of all the emotion that was gathering inside of us:in her full and gut-based voice and dance, rolling around this old blue couch – which had become a metaphor for home, transience, and changeability.

The audience wandered around in the space after it was over, greeting each other, hugging, and reflecting on all the years we’ve shared – as part of concentric circles of community in this city.

* Rebecca

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Bravo.  I loved the journey on the streets.  Courageous.  As a participant the gamut of feelings were from sad and shut down (to deal wit the sad) to euphoric as on drugs.  The balcony was the rise of the phoenix and the carousal was magical. Good work.

* Janet Koike

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I just wanted to tell you how much I loved your show! I was so impressed with all the performers and transitions and story telling. I thought the use of space was really entertaining and creative. Loved Areyla in the ceiling and the personal stories in the corner. All very well crafted and intentional.  

Einsteins daughter.   😉 

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Marathon of amazing movement and thoughtfulness of the stories from the neighborhood. I didn’t even realize I had walked 5 blocks!  I was so caught up in the stories being shared through movement, words and song.

 

* Dan Weiermann

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Below are some collected / recalled quotes or exchanges of thoughts I had with various friends/family/strangers- Hien

‘engaged from start to finish- pop up of art’

‘the carousel was unforgettable – i’ve seen dance on carousel but here it was so original and unique’

‘would have never walked those streets or seen those areas had it not been for the performance’

‘it was so satisfying to see all the collected information outside repeated inside along with the wall’

‘so many beautiful dancers of styles, movement, background in one place’

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I only saw the inside portion so am commenting solely on that.

Epifano’s LBCITS utilizes a myriad of comings and goings, a movement metaphor for the constant shifting of populations in San Francisco; namely the artistic population’s struggle for a sense of security, landing, home. The piece continually shifts space, place and time for both the audience and the performers. Entering into the YBCA Forum, there is a delightful raw chaos. Audience, moving, settling, uprooted, resettling, replicating the transient movement of the waves of artists’ and communities’ comings and goings in the bay area. Never landing never allowing to settle. Confused feelings of transition; right when you’re getting used to being comfortable in a spot you change place. You change where you decide to go, over and over and over again. This movement creates a sense of restlessness, sense of displacement. Insecurity, excitement, curiosity, exhaustion. Dancers break apart into groups, duets, solos, reassembling into new configurations, expanding and contracting the performance space, constantly reforming. Various stories and bodies colliding together, complex and simple combinations creating an intersectionality between space, bodies, stories, generations, time. Sectioning out the space creating new places to call home. Never staying the same. No minute is ever still. Seeing similar things from different perspectives. Structurally brilliant. Longing for a landing place longing for stability longing for grounding. I peer from the inside of the Forum to witness 2 dancers, longtime SF residents, on the outside. There’s a feeling of isolation watching through the window wall.  A transparent betweenness. Inside looking out. As the viewer on the inside, I feel as if I’m suddenly a part of the elitist community that is developing, shoving out the older to make room and embrace the new. A moment of loss, of melancholy, of memory passes through. And then I turn my back to the glass to face the chaos, and in a state of overwhelm, forget.

* Ue Chua

 

The Last Blue Couch was both epic and intimate in its reflections on a fascinating neighbourhood. The combination of storytelling and dance in the places where it all happened felt like I was part of something unique and was totally engrossing. There were so many striking and potent visuals that will stay in my mind for a long time. The performance has enriched my experience of being a new part of the SOMA community.

* Daniel Harvey

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Every day I walk the back streets of Minna and Mary Street in SOMA.

I always look down and hope for no interactions. Epiphany Dances ‘Last Blue Couch in the Sky’ created a safe place for me to look up and see, hear, experience and share the stories of the people I  would previously ignore.

I now look forward to walking these streets, with my head held high and a new found respect for the community and the people I previously did not see!

* Marline Zaibak

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Rehearsing Blue Couch with Kim renewed my sense of gratitude for the remaining artists in SF and what it means to fight to stay here. I came to love the Blue Couch ensemble – a strikingly diverse body of performance artists with a kaleidoscope of unique skills and backgrounds.

* Sebastian Grubb

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Anyone who attended Kim Epifano’s  street theater event, Last Blue Couch in the Sky either intentionally or accidentally as audience was fortunate indeed to witness community arts at its best.

The moments when people on the street found themselves in the midst of the audience and became performers themselves were rich. The lack of distinction between performers, audience and neighborhood people was illuminating and democratic. For a moment the class divisions were dispelled in a gray area that left room to explore important questions about the roles we all play on this crazy stage of life.  Judgement could be suspended momentarily offering profound pathways to change thinking patterns for all involved. We could all enjoy each other’s company so much if there were more community events like this one.

There were ample opportunities for the performers to improvise and interact with the audience/neighborhood but given the logistics and technical requirements of doing a piece of such grand scale in the streets improvisation couldn’t really be a focus.

Great dancing, great music and costumes. Brilliant idea Kim. Bravo!

* Megan Bierman

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Heart moving

Goose bumps

I learned so much history about my city in an emotionally filled experience. The whole performance was beyond my expectations. The live music, the story telling, the singing and dancing, all moving through the streets were superb. Very clever way of moving the performance and the audience. The people who were living on those same streets were treated with respect and love. There were many many unexpected delights, discovering dancers posing in doorways, on fire hydrants. Looking up to a hotel fire escape to enjoy a thrilling dance segment. And the costumes added to the whole experience. And when did the dancers change? A mystery. In Kim’s hands we all felt safe in environments that we usually don’t venture into. I was so moved by the experience that 24 hours later I was still speechless when it came to describing all the aspects and elements. Wow. And Thank You.

* Janet Scheuer

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The piece was whimsical, deeply felt, and inspiring. The audience was put in the uncomfortable position of the displaced, having to constantly move from one spot to another to engage with the performance, and to stand up, sit down, turn around and crane necks to see what was going on. I really enjoyed the discomfort of the evening. It kept me on my toes (literally) and the payoff was palpable. The dancing, music, and spatial play were fantastic and made me feel and think deeply. Bravo!

* Anna Shneiderman

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Kim took us into the chaos, into the dark, and asked us what we could feel, sense and perceive. She invited us to experience the intersections of space and time and to tell our story through our moving bodies.  Kim is masterful at transforming spaces from the mundane to the magical, reminding us of the people who came before and who created and inhabited the now forgotten spaces. I believe that this piece successfully communicates the beautiful and painful experience of loving through change, Of belonging without owning, and  the need to “fight” in order to participate in the community and the world you love.

* Nuria Bowart

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“Okay! Made a large impact to be thinking about gentrification while being in a gentrified neighborhood. The site specificity and use of movement, spoken word, text, and drawing enriched the audience experience and understanding of the shift that has taken place in San Francisco with increasing income inequalities and also understand the history of the city of San Francisco making choices that favored the rich and displaced poorer communities.”

* Hailey Sournart

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Jenny Perfilio: These are not quotes.  Just what I remember from being in conversation with audience Members:

  1. Loved seeing the different types of performers.  Watching the phrases that the group performed together was like watching the same phrase with 18 different flavors of movement.  He appreciated that diversity.
  1. He was grateful for the way in which Epifano asked her audience to work, to move from place to place both outdoors and inside the forum.  The work of the journey that was asked of the audience was appropriate to the piece as a statement on displacement, hardship, and street life.  Introducing Last Blue Couch as a “happening” rather than a show was helpful and allowed the audience to recognize and see all the other distractions going on in the street as part of the performance, live, raw and real.  The city was integrated into the performance and the performance into the city so well that construction work, bike commuters riding through dance sections, and honking horns were pleasurable and noticed as part of the intention of the choreography.  The audience felt like they were an integral part of the piece rather than viewers from without.  They were a traveling group of folk together with the performers and they got to know one another along the journey.  The dance sections were wonderful.
  1. Enjoyed the way in which the performance allowed her to walk through the city slowly and notice things they may not have noticed before.
  1. Love the way Epifano incorporates singing into her work.  It enriches the experience and reminds me that when I go out to see an Epiphany production, I will see much more than the typical dance performance.  It is so refreshing.

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Dear Kim,

What an amazing production on Sunday! I was amazed by the depth and complexity and history and beauty you made!

Congratulations, dear one. It was beautiful and moving and powerful.

*Anne Bluethenthal

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Like a kaleidoscope viewing the dance from inside as the dance circled around you, and then from outside as the dancers take the center. At one point the dance happens above you , some 100 feet above , as we, the audience, relax on our backs. Such playful audiencing!! Epifano is a masterful ring leader.

* Julie Kane

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Some notes from me; “actor bob” as my Tai-Chi sifu calls me..

Always believed in the heart & soul of the piece and the community of local artists that you brought together to create “the Beast”. The crew was the best! You gave me a chance to practice and to continue to grow; both in my own way and, at the same time, have the opportunity to apply “my own way” to someone else’s vision–and still get paid for it! In other words, I got to make music, be physical, write and act; sometimes, all at once–& that’s what I’m truly interested in.  I think yr. on to something; how to direct the development and building of  a vision, your vision; through a collective, communal process.

It was also great to “hang in there” with the current generation; I’m very sympathetic to their/your struggles; they were much the same “back in the day” only, these daze, it’s so much harsher, harder, not to mention the violence & fear that seems to be in the air, everywhere.  This crew  was/is committed!

Outside blew my mind; both The neighborhood reaction and the audience’s reaction.  Amazingly positive & celebratory & and, as my performer friend, Chris Kammler said right afterwards: “I had no idea that I needed this show-this event that much; that I was missing a sense of community in performance that much! How wonderful!” People ate it up because they were starving for it in their lives.; both us, the performers/collaborators and the audience as well.

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I felt buoyed in that hood by being surrounded on all sides by the spectacle and its audience so that what would now ordinarily be a wary, nervous experience was suddenly a joyous one. It took me back to the old days when a walk in that part of The City was actually a safe one, to the ’60s when happenings were popping up all over the place, when eye contact and smiles with strangers were de rigeur, when we all felt we belonged to something bigger than ourselves.

Kim Hahn, Dancer

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The evening lifted my heart & spirits. I had no idea that I needed this show-this event that much; that I was missing a sense of community in performance that much! How wonderful!

Christine Kammler, Performer

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Please tell Bob I loved the show. The music and singing were great and I liked his story about the pig farm. Nice to be able to wander thru that part of town with one eye on the show and another on the town.  Reminiscing about places I had been and done shows, etc. Great job, all!

James Cave, Iconic, long-time bay Area Theatrical Fixser

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The Last Blue Couch in the Sky has so many riches it’s impossible to take them all in. Each individual’s story within the flow of the show remains distinct and personal, yet the brimming abundance of movement and sound adds up to one great wave of feeling for the city and its people.

* Bart Hopkin

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I saw “The Last Blue Couch” on June 4 and I just wanted to tell you that it was a beautiful piece from beginning, in SoMa, to the end, at YBCA.

You created a true ensemble of exceptionally talented individuals in making your vision become reality. Your sensitivity and storytelling were wonderful.

* Aileen Kim

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