‘Myth and Machine’ ensemble 

It’s nerve-racking to put together a first home-season performance that undoubtedly will garner both public and critical attention. It’s even more nerve-racking when what you are creating is more than just a choreographic routine.

For its inaugural season at Cowell Theater this weekend, Carmen Carnes Dance Ensemble is cooperating with Gamelan Anak Swarasanti orchestra from Santa Cruz, moving sculpture artist Sha Sha Higby and poet Emily


And that’s just for the world premiere piece, "Myth and Machine." The other work, a "recapitulation" of "Circle, Cycle, Spiral and Stream" (an audience favorite from 2002), requires help from Persian multi-instrumentalist Nejad, who will accompany the dancers on flute and drums.

Yet choreographer

Carmen Carnes

doesn’t have much to worry about since she has already worked with some of these artists before. In fact, "Myth and Machine" grew out of a shorter collaborative work presented at last summer’s ChoreoFest and, just like then, begins off stage.

"I’m interested in how to use off-stage space, not only the proscenium," Carnes says. That is why the intermission actually will be a prelude to "Myth and Machine," featuring an installation by Sha Sha Higby followed by a procession of dancers and traveling Gamelan musicians marching down the long Cowell Theater hallway.

The Gamelan players, who will then change to "sitting" instruments, will be accompanied by electronic music. This unique combination, popular at local raves, speaks to the content of Carnes’ dance: "Myth and Machine" is a work about the interaction between humans and machines.

"I had the idea of exploring our becoming more and more integrated with our technology," Carnes says. "My work comes out of my personal experience and I try to see what’s the broader context. I work at a computer and use technology a lot. I love the speed and progress, but it does take me away from natural cycles of the earth. We are not connected to the earth anymore, so it’s easier to abuse it."

Carnes’ ensemble has a unique style that combines her modern dance training with knowledge of Javanese, Balinese and Persian dance techniques. The movements are slow, meditative, and have recognizable Oriental elements like the bent legs, raised at the side.

"Myth andMachine" will be accompanied by two texts by Kirschell and will help tell the story of evolution, from a simple village life to an urban, fast-paced atmosphere where a cyborg creature, played by wonderful Chelsea Taylor, finally will be born.

Carnes hopes all the elements of the piece come together nicely. She says, "It’s a great group of people, so I have a lot of faith that at the very least it will not boring."


Carmen Carnes Dance Ensemble

Where: Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street, San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Tickets: $25 general, $20 seniors, students and children

Contact: (415) 747-0664 or


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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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