'Imaginary Country' - Sharp & Fine's new show dances into the future

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Tuesday May 2, 2023
Share this Post:
Caitlin Hicks and Julie Crothers in 'Imaginary Country' (photo: RJ Muna)
Caitlin Hicks and Julie Crothers in 'Imaginary Country' (photo: RJ Muna)

From May 12-14, Z Space will host the world premiere of "Imaginary Country," a new dance piece that poses the question: what would happen if you could see into the future? The show comes to the San Francisco stage courtesy of Sharp & Fine, a contemporary dance company founded in 2011 by sisters Megan and Shannon Kurashige.

The company prides itself in experimenting with theatrical storytelling combined with exuberant choreography, drawing on ballet and contemporary forms. Over the years Sharp & Fine has collaborated with dancers, composers, authors, a playwright and an opera singer.

According to Julie Crothers, one of the lead dancers in the show, "Imaginary Country" tells its story not only through dance, but through music and spoken word. Crothers brings quite a bit to the table. She is queer and disabled, but has never let her disability stop her from pursuing her passion for dance. Crothers hails from the Nashville area and danced for three years with AXIS Dance Company. She left AXIS in 2017 to focus on her own choreography. She also teaches dance to teens and preschoolers.

"I was born missing half of my left arm," Crothers explained in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter. "I danced for the first twenty-two years of my life wearing a prosthetic arm. It took a couple of years to transition, but now I no longer wear a prosthetic. I dance with my body just as it is. In some ways that's a big part of how I move, but it's also not a big part, in that not everything I do is related to my disability. Most of the time it feels that people who want to work with me want to do so because of who I am and what I bring to the process. But it influences my artistry and how I move about the world."

Caitlin Hicks and Julie Crothers in 'Imaginary Country' (photo: RJ Muna)  

Hero and Oracle
Crothers describes herself as a trained dancer with a technical background. She is also interested in theater, expression and storytelling.

"It's important to me in the work that I make and the work that I participate in," she said. "I feel that I can fully show up as who I am. I'm a very animated person, warm and outgoing. I'm a queer person, and it feels important that I work in spaces that feel like they embrace that, and that no part of me has to be minimized, or squished into a mold to fit into what's being done."

She describes "Imaginary Country" as a show about the future. It's about the relationship between two characters, the Hero, played by Crothers, and "the Oracle." The premise of the show is that one day the Oracle can suddenly see into the future. At first the Hero is not interested in knowing much about it.

"But over the course of the show our relationship to this idea of the future and to this new ability that the Oracle has, and the way that it plays on that, and how it affects my relationship to the future and to the Oracle kind of unravels," she said. "It shows a lot more about who we are as characters, and what it means to be in community and move into the future and all of the fears and unknowns that it entails."

While the piece is primarily a dance performance, Crothers points out that "Imaginary Country" also includes monologues, dialogue and a song. She feels that the show has appeal to audiences beyond the world of dance. The work, she says, is accessible, and that it plays with many different emotions.

And if you're hesitant to attend this show, Crothers has a few words of assurance for you.

"This show is going to make you think," she said. "It's going to make you feel, and in my opinion that's what the best kind of live performance is doing. I personally don't want to go to a show where I walk out not caring not caring about what I just saw or not having felt anything about what I just saw. The story of these characters has something specific that you can latch onto. But it's also going to speak to the more collective experience of something that is universal to all of us, and it is this idea of the future, and this idea of the responsibility we have to ourselves and to each other as we move in this thing that is so full of fear and is so unknown."

Sharp & Fine's 'Imaginary Country,' May 12 and 13, 8pm, May 14, 2pm, Z Space, 450 Florida Street, $15-$25. www.sharpandfine.org

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.