Monday, May 15, 2017

"If Nietzsche had Parkinson's" dNaga dancers @ SOMArts in SF

Ballarina 9 x 12 oil on music sheet
By David Delany

If Nietzsche had Parkinson's he would have said. "What WILL kill you, will make you grateful for your life, for what you haven't lost yet." My father faded and died with the disease. He was diagnosed at roughly my present age. So when I was in Oakland's Danspace and learned of Claudine Naganuma’s dance class for people living with Parkinson's I immediately contacted Claudine and asked to join the next Thursday morning session. After all, this may be my future and I had better take a look. I taped a picture of Dad to my chest and stepped out into the bright cool Berkeley morning air. Wonderful surprises awaited me! Live piano deftly enlivens the class with it's own soundtrack. The participants are adorable, the staff is kindness personified. Empathy and good energy float like music around the room. It's a delightful space. Not a hint of morbidity. Later, at the performance I attended in San Francisco, Parkinson's patient Gary Turchin said "When I'm dancing I don't have Parkinson's." That's why the class is attractive to people like Gary, they find freedom in creativity and community with each other.

Before I review the performance at the SOMArts on Mother's Day I want to give a shout out to my friend Howard Flax whose business Flax's Art Supply lent financial support to SOMArts which hosted Claudine's dNaga show.  I also want to congratulate dNaga on winning a matching funds grant from The East Bay Fund for Artists. Donations made to dnaga before July 31st  will be matched up to $8000! Claudine's dance company plans to use the money to support artists and GIRL Project dancers in East Oakland, so please, go directly to their website and donate as much as generosity moves you to

At SOMArts dNaga Dance Company performed "SHIFT" with Parkinson's patients from the class. Joel Davel provided the musical composition and Dale MacDonald handled the lights and projections.  The young female dancers whirled around and crawled on all fours like spirits and memories or jerked and made faces like misfiring synapses and frustrating feelings, then collapsed in exhaustion from the effort. The Parkinson's dancers gave polarity and weight to the poetry of the young dancers with their presence and participation. It was all very well done including the original score and the projections of alpha-synuclein images behind the dancers. It moved me to see the diversity of them all up there moving together. When Warren one of the Parkinson’s dancers  was paired with the youngest dancer and followed her through a game of hopscotch I was also transported to my own childhood memories and feelings.

The performance "FREEDOM" was part of a tribute to the Asian American activist Yuri Kochiyama who famously was photographed holding the head of Malcolm X after he was gunned down. She pioneered altruistic activism, forging alliances and lent her indomitable strength and energy to black and brown protests. She saw them as one and the same cause. The dance piece by dNaga uses audio clips and a jazz score to good effect as the dancers are in constant fluid motion, much like Yuri was, I imagine. The exhibit in the gallery space where the piece starts tells the story of extreme racism at the highest levels in American society of the day, when Yuri was interred at Jerome relocation camp after Pearl Harbor was attacked. The audio speaks to the current situation here in Oakland with police violence and prison injustice. In the audio Yuri says that things are much better now than when she was interned. "People can't get away with it today the way they did then." That's a hopeful sign from a woman who would know and who had something to do with the change.

Now go donate to’s partner page and help the GIRL PROJECT have a great year.