By Michele DeLuca
Niagara Gazette — Jo Kreiter likes to hang dancers from high places. She has dangled them on giant construction machinery and on San Francisco high-rises where they defy gravity with their turns and leaps.
Her most recent dance project took place in one of Frisco’s most urban and tattered streets, but it had a theme that connected those who viewed her multi-media installation to a city nearly 2,700 miles away — Niagara Falls, N.Y.
The installation was called “Niagara Falling,” and included a documentary which was shown on the side of the building as the dancers performed. The event was created by Kreiter and a Niagara Falls native, David Hodge, and began when Hodge returned to his hometown several years ago to visit some friends.
He was so disarmed by what he saw in the city, so surprised by the decline, that he began doing interviews with friends who he had grown up with and others who remained in the city. “Things I remembered were gone and that was pretty sad,” he said. So he conducted about 60 interviews and talked with people about the city’s decline, and about their hopes and memories.
“Everybody, hands down, talked bout what a great community it was,” he said. “They were all saddened, as I am, that it turned the way it did.”
Hodge, a professional filmmaker lives in SanFrancisco and Stockholm with his wife and professional partner, HiJin Hodge. When he returned to the west coast, and was stewing on the images and faces from his home town, he was approached by Kreiter, who had seen a film he and his wife had dones for another dance company. She was interested in collaborating with the Hodges.
The team came up with the idea for “Niagara Falling,” and Hodge added new images and interviews of people living in the “Tenderloin,” the most challenging section of SanFrancisco, where the project would eventually be performed for three days in September.
A reviewer from The SanFrancisco Chronicle wrote: “It’s worth putting on a parka to savor the best moments of Niagara Falling.” There’s a stunning sequence that sends (two dancers) tussling aloft with a small aluminum boat, while the falls churn behind them. Their final ascent into the dinghy seems like a heroic act.”
Kreiter says the project is not just about Niagara Falls and the worst parts of SanFrancisco, but rather provides images of what is thriving and what is collapsing in the urban landscape, with a view toward inspiring audiences to imagine possibilities for civic regeneration.
The idea is rescue she said, noting that industrial chain hoists haul the dancers up the side of the wall to swim against the force of the falls and against the Pacific Ocean’s massive swells. Drawing parallels between San Francisco and the city of Niagara Falls, the event depicts the human faces affected by the fracturing American dream, she said.
The team behind “Niagara Falling” is hoping to find a way to bring their event to Niagara Falls. Meantime, Hodge speaks like the native he is when he says his hope for his original documentary, “Niagara Falling,” is that it can be shown in other cities where there are people who might be able to assist Niagara Falls with its reconstruction. He and his wife are also publishing a book with essays and photos on “Niagara Falling.” And much like those still living in the city itself, they are continuing to work on the idea of its reconstruction and renovation.
“Our hope is to do another film with a much more hopeful message, about the notion of rebuilding,” he said. “We’re just starting to work on that.” To view or learn more about any of the Hodges projects visit www.davidandhijin.com.
Contact Features Editor Michele DeLuca at 282-2311, ext. 2263.