While the collective influence of her contemporaries and mentors Margaret Jenkins, Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown and Lucinda Childs can be seen in her works, she takes her own choreographic cues from the deep investigations and improvisational challenges she poses to her dancers.
The combination creates movement that has a quality of familiarity, but is infused with extraordinary passion. “I go into the work with a bunch of questions,” says Mohr, whose modern troupe launches its seventh season this week. “These are points of departure rather than fixed ideas of what I want people to execute. They’re questions I have brought to the table that I don’t have the answers to.”
Hope Mohr Dance’s ambitious program, running Thursday through Sunday at ODC Theater, includes three world premieres.
“Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction” is based on a Wallace Stevens poem that names three ideal aspects of poetry: It must be abstract, it must change and it must give pleasure.
In creating the piece, Mohr addressed the question of how and when to have dancers improvise vs. when to set structured movement. She describes the process as looking for what Wallace called the “impossible possible.”
She says, “This was about as much freedom I could give them. How many rules did they need? How could I empower them and have the final product still be offered by me?”
The score, created by jazz trumpeter Henry Hung, incorporates sounds the dancers make as they move — their breathing, their conversations in rehearsal — as well as text from Stevens and Mohr, who is a poet in her own right.
The second piece, “Route 20,” involves what Mohr calls “high stakes partnering,” in which Mohr calls out cues to dancers to take their partners’ weight. The performers must trust that their partners won’t let them fall.
“There are portals of unpredictability,” she says. “The stakes are that the dancers don’t know what’s going to happen within those moments.
Mohr’s love for language is evident in her third premiere, called “ridetherhythm.”
The piece, inspired by the story of Antigone, adds a contemporary character to comment on the action. Megan Brian, a public programs staff member of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, appears as a mad linguistic scientist alongside other actors who move and dancers who speak.
“It’s great to have people who are skilled and comfortable working with dancers. I like to have different bodies with different skills,” says Mohr.
IF YOU GO
Hope Mohr Dance
Where: ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $20 to $40
Contact: (415) 863-9834, www.odcdance.org