Hundreds of Superballs on the Dance Floor

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Good Friday, they call it. I'd think Bad Friday would be more apt. But I've never gotten a grasp on these dreadful Abrahamic religions and their unsavory passion for misery, suffering, and death.

It might well have been a holiday here in San Antonio. Early Friday afternoon I cycled by half a dozen families firing up the barbecue pits in the parks along the Mission trail. There were people biking, walking, jogging, and one breathtakingly fit middle-aged woman in impossibly tight jeans zooming along on in-line skates — almost left me in the dust, but I overtook her on an incline.

There's a section along the left bank of the San Antonio River at Mission San Juan where I want to set some action for a film project I'm developing. Eventually I'm going to have to track down the owners of the three properties I'd like to shoot on. This is an area where I usually hop the fence and walk along the levy top. I'd loaded my iPod up with some fresh cycling choices, and James McMurtry's Choctaw Bingo as well as The Strapping Fieldhands' In the Pineys set the tone as I made my way along a barbed wire fence line and a row of old battered pecan trees too cynical to yet send forth their tender leaflets of springtime.

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Thursday me, Russ, and Deborah made our second attempt to see the dance performance we missed earlier in the week. There was a second performance in the Main Gallery of the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center.

We all met up just before the show. There were some new sculptures scattered around the parking-lot. I should have posed a person next to this huge baby pram. It's about seven feet tall. Hey, I think it needed a giant baby … or maybe a doll (sorry, that's an inside joke for Alston).

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I like the pram. However, a bit further down there was a sad, woeful assemblage of flotsam which some naif expected the Blue Star punters to embrace as art. I wanted to photograph it — you know, as a cautionary example that art and Thorazine make for poor bedfellows — but it was just too pathetic for me to find a suitable aesthetic composition. I should admit that it did give me a greater appreciation of the assertive and muscular form of the forest green dispenser of doggy poop bags standing nearby.

Speaking of doggies, Betty Ward was in attendance at the performance, inexplicably accompanied by her giant white poodle. Perhaps it was dog night at Blue Star. Though I can't say I saw anyone else with a canine companion.

What had brought me in to see this performance was that it featured dancer Amber Ortega-Perez. One of the groups that she's affiliated with wanted to show for Luminaria the rough edit of Melancholy, the dance film that me and Russ did with Christy Walsh. This placed Amber back on my radar. And when I saw a MySpace “evite” from her, I decided that me and Russ and Deborah should attend. We all know Amber. And we are all thinking of collaborating on a work with a dance component.

The evening was more than just a dance piece. This was the SOLI Chamber Ensemble's second of their 2008 concert series. “Synergy: Collaborative Encounters.” The SOLI is a four piece ensemble somewhat along the lines of the Kronos Quartet where they commission works by modern composers. Thursday night they had a scaled down version of the ensemble. Just Stephanie Key on clarinet and Carolyn True on piano. They performed pieces by Yahudi Wyner, Elliott Carter, Libby Larsen, and Steve Reich (the Reich piece was for “clarinet and tape”).

And, proceeding the intermission, was the dance piece, in three movements. (RE)ACTION is the title. It was one of the works funded by the Artist Foundation of San Antonio. Amber Ortega-Perez collaborated with clarinetist Stephanie Key and guitarist Joe Reyes (who is, of course, better known as a member of the preeminent San Antonio post punk art band, Buttercup). The work was a sort of controlled improvisational exploration of sound, rhythm, and space. I loved how the two musicians were moving around while playing their instruments, involved with Amber's dance. By the third movement, Joe was in a gas mask, Stephanie in diving goggles, and Amber wore a bicycle light headband — there were hundreds of green superballs rolling around on the floor, and performers and audience members were tossing and kicking around a huge blue balloon decorated as Earth with all the continents. And here I really wanted Betty Ward's giant poodle to come unglued and pounce on that balloon … or maybe begin howling. Hell, at least gracelessly take a monstrous dump on the floor. Nope. That dog's one cool customer.

I loved the piece! Congrats to Betty Ward and the Artist Foundation of San Antonio for funding this excellent collaborative work where three brilliant artists with diverse backgrounds and sensibilities came together to make something so extraordinary.

Here are the three giving the audience a Q & A opportunity. Left to right: Stephanie Key, Amber Ortega-Perez, and Joe Reyes.

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And beyond Deborah you can see Russ talking to Stephanie.

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In his photo we have a nice shot of Amber Ortega-Perez and Deborah Keller-Rihn.

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Outside we thought maybe we'd continue the night. Russ wanted a drink. Deborah wanted something to eat. I could have gone either way. They both looked across the parking lot to the Blue Star Brewery. It was just coming up on eleven. I explained that the kitchen would have been long closed. Russ didn't believe me and was willing to go there and ask. But before we could head over there, artist Luis Valderas called down from his perch on the patio of that pretentious cocktail bar in the hideous highrise condo building recently added to Blue Star. Anyway, Deborah was beguiled by Luis' cigarette. She's claimed to have quit weeks ago, but clearly her resolve was weakening.

The next thing I knew, we were crowded around Luis' table on the upper patio of the bar. Russ was gushing over their killer dirty martinis, I was sipping a beer, and Deborah had some sort of Baileys Irish Cream drink … and, of course, one of Luis' smokes.

Around midnight we were talking about food. There used to be several 24 hour eateries here in my neighborhood when I moved here. But they seemed to have all closed over the years. Deborah was talking about pancake chains and Russ mentioned some places down on upper Broadway closer to where he lives. I didn't want to go so far afield just to get something to eat.

“There's this mildly seedy 24 hour taco place down Roosevelt at Mitchell,” I said. “The Ric Ron Taco House.”

They were game. And as I knew the both of them were intrepid enough not to be turned off by a restaurant which fed off the clientele of a little rough and tumble southside dance club. I thought it would turn out to be a good fit. And it was.

If you find yourself on the near southside around midnight or later and are feeling a bit peckish, head straight to Ric Ron's. The food might not be stellar, but it's tasty enough. Hand-made tortillas. Cheap and pleasant.

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