RAWdance decodes life of computer pioneer 

click to enlarge Turing’s Apple
  • Ryan T. Smith and Aaron Perlstein appear in RAWdance’s world premiere “Turing’s Apple.”
The word “apple” conjures up sunny images: keeping the doctor away, a gift for the teacher, all those indispensable iProducts. But there’s that other apple — from the Garden of Eden — that continues to mess with our psyches. RAWdance founders Ryan T. Smith and Wendy Rein get to the core of that more sinister fruit in “Turing’s Apple” at Z Space this week.

The world-premiere piece — among the offerings on the troupe’s 10-year anniversary program — is inspired by the life and (reportedly) death-by-poison-apple suicide of Alan Turing, the famed British mathematician and cryptologist whose work both helped end World War II and formed the basis for much of modern computer science.

Turing, who was prosecuted for homosexual acts which were criminal in the UK at the time, agreed to undergo hormone-chemical castration treatment to avoid prison. He died of cyanide poisoning on June 7, 1954, 16 days before his 42nd birthday.

“He was just pardoned by the British government last year,” says Rein, “which shows how far we’ve come but how long it’s taken us.”

Smith adds, “There are so many others who may not have had his genius and skill and have not received a pardon.”

Turing’s compelling story offered a platform for Smith and Rein, whose work often reflects their fascination with technology and structures.

“We always value patterns in our work,” says Smith. “We got to thinking about cryptology and code breaking. But it was our composer, Richard Einhorn, who suggested Alan Turing because of his dramatic personal narratives. We’re using his story as inspiration — not as a literal narrative.”

For each new project, Smith and Rein research their material exhaustively. “When we decide on a subject for a new work we read, we watch films, interview and work with other people who are expert in the field,” explains Smith. “We never know how directly or subtly that impacts the work. But, we need to understand our choices and know that we are satisfying our intellectual need for making the work.”

RAWdance’s summer program also includes the Rorschach-inspired trio, “Burn In.” It’s the complete version of a work-in-progress Smith and Rein presented last year that received rave reviews.

Rounding out the show are works by RAWdance friends Gretchen Garnett and Tanya Bello. Garnett, who has been living and performing in Europe, returns with a trio titled “A Dedication.” Bello’s work, “Nawala,” from the Tagalog language, explores the concept of grief.


RAWdance Summer Season

Where: Z Space, 450 Florida St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $25 to $30

Contact: (866) 811-4111, www.zspace.org

About The Author

Andrea Pflaumer

Andrea Pflaumer

Andrea Pflaumer is a Berkeley-based author and journalist and former dancer who writes dance and arts previews for the San Francisco Examiner. She has just published her first book: Shopping for the Real You.
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