Jess Curtis is one of the Apocalyptic Devo-influenced release-based dancers who were at the forefront of the US avant-garde at the end of the last century, during that difficult decade which began when young men were dying of AIDS with no hope of a cure – and the neo-shamanist dances of his group came closest to achieving tragic gravitas in response to the deaths all around us – and ended with the triumph of the dot-com money-grubbers and the election of George Bush.
Such stunning reversals of expectations bewildered most
artists; Curtis has managed best to find a way to move into the dissociated era we’re living in now without losing his feel for what preoccupies the urban intellectual most.
For a postmodernist, Curtis has always had a healthy respect for the audience and has sought to sound out theatrical wisdom in populist modes like circus and cabaret. For the last half-decade he’s lived part-time in Berlin, and has brought the dark wit and complex pathos of that city’s warehouse dance-scene to bear on the utopian aspirations of San Francisco contact improv. This year’s brilliant production, “Under the Radar,” played the near-angelic dexterity of a juggler against the strangely ...