The Farallonites, a full-length dance piece by Dana Lawton Dances, transports audiences to an otherworldly place and time: the Farallon Islands off San Francisco in the late 19th century. It’s an ethereal piece of movement-based storytelling that captures the isolation and strenuous physical nature of life on the Farallons, and celebrates the kinship between the few families that subsisted on the island, keeping the lighthouse ablaze in the fog. From the first moments of powerful ocean noise washing over the audience, the Lobero Theatre transformed into the windswept, rocky shores of the Farallons. The colors and shapes felt dreamlike, recalling the grays and blues of the sea. The choreography swayed and swelled like waves, creating a romanticized and beautiful vision of the simple, rugged lifestyle of those people willing to brave the toil and remoteness of maintaining the lighthouse.
A marriage of poetry, music, and movement, The Farallonites features popular music of the late 1800s, songs more than a century old that richly illustrate scenes representing both the joys and hard work of island life. Excerpts of poetry by Jennifer Kulbeck set the mood with dreamy verses describing the weathered, mysterious quality of the islands and their denizens. Lighting and scenic design also supplemented the ambiance: With smoke machines simulating the ocean mist in billowing clouds, and a slowly sweeping light creating the effect of a rotating lighthouse beam, The Farallonites is engrossing and joyful. Featuring dancers Michael Armstrong, Leah Curran, Garth Grimball, Leah Hendrix-Smith, Katie Lawson-Gill, John McConville, Colin McDowell, Robin Nasatir, Eduardo Rivera-Garcia, Vera Schwegler, and Jennifer Smith, choreographer Dana Lawton has developed a beautiful re-creation of a critical, lesser-known aspect of California’s history.