San Francisco

Contraband, Oracle

Theater Artaud

Contraband is an eight-member, San Francisco-based, interdisciplinary performance collective that boasts of its “rowdy dancing.” It annexed a social context and power for its work several years ago with a series of performances in the Gartland Pit, the politically charged site of an unsolved crime in San Francisco’s Mission district in which arson destroyed a hotel for low-income residents and 12 occupants died in the blaze. I, for one, carried the memory of Contraband’s provocative performance there into the Theater Artaud for the company’s recent premiere of Oracle, presented by American Inroads. The response of the audience at the end of the evening can only be described as tepid—surprising for opening night in the artists’ home town—and it is interesting to consider why.

The performance was dazzling, with energetic, acrobatic choreography by Sara Shelton Mann, a spare, intriguing taped

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