Frolic among the flowers 

Most visitors go to San Francisco's Conservatory of Flowers to see lush vegetation, exotic flowers or maybe some dancing butterflies. But on Wednesday through Saturday, the 1879 conservatory, a historic glass and wood structure, will house a different kind of beauty.

Epiphany Productions Sonic Dance Theater presents "Botany's Breath," choreographed by company founder Kim Epifano, who is known for creating the popular San Francisco Trolley Dances, during which visitors take public transit to watch performances at various sites in The City.

"Botany's Breath" is similar to those site-specific works; the audience will experience the piece in humid, verdant greenhouse rooms as dancers move into and around the foliage.

"Each room has its own flavor," Epifano says. "The water room feels spiritual. It's damp, like you're in Thailand or something. Then there's the potted plant room, and that's like the ghosts of the conservatory. There are plants there that have been there for generations. And the butterfly room — that's a transformation."

Like much of Epifano's work, "Botany's Breath" is a collaborative effort. The hourlong piece uses eight dancers and is set to live music by Peter Whitehead and Norman Rutherford. A video by Ellen Bromberg with Ben Estabrook will be projected onto the exterior of the conservatory for viewing between the two evening performances.

"I still wanted to have something for free so people could come and enjoy the conservatory and be a part of it," Epifano says.

Originally from the Boston area, Epifano started dancing at a young age, but was turned off by ballet's restrictions.

"I didn't like the tights and stuff," she says. "My mother found a place where they let you create your own dances. I knew I liked to make things up, and that made me stick with it. There's a certain drive to a dancer, an organic, raw fleshiness in their muscles and their blood. It's the true passion of the flesh."

In the 1980s and 1990s, Epifano worked with Bay Area dance renegades Dance Brigade and Sara Shelton Mann's Contraband before founding EPSDT in 1997, mostly producing large-scale, site-specific works like "Botany's Breath," which has been both inspiring and difficult to choreograph.

"It's not a place you can just put a dance in," Epifano says. "We're trying not to place ourselves on top, but become a part of the room. It's a precious, exquisite jewel of a space. Every rehearsal feels like a gift. It's nice to dance with the butterflies; it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

IF YOU GO

Botany's Breath

Presented by Conservatory of Flowers and Epiphany Productions Sonic Dance Theater

Where: Golden Gate Park, 100 John F. Kennedy Drive, S.F.

When: 7:30 and 9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday

Tickets: $25 to $30

Contact: (415) 831-2090, www.epiphanydance.org; www.conservatoryofflowers.org

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Lauren Gallagher

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