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The San Francisco Moving Men have a gender identity crisis….

She handed me a tennis ball with my ticket and assured me that when the time came, I would know when to throw it.

Ball in hand, I stepped into the intimate performance space and joined the crowd of presumably gay men who had turned up in preparation for the city’s annual Pride festivities to see “athletic dance and cute boys,” as San Francisco Moving Men’s (SFMM) marketing material proclaimed.

For a company so out and proud about it’s queer focus, it was peculiar that I walked away thinking more about the women in the concert than the men. Of course, part of that was merely circumstantial.

During an improvised solo on a multi-colored shag carpet, SFMM Artistic Director Joe Landini informed us that one of the dancers had been called into his job and would not perform, and that rehearsal director Christine Cali would replace him.

Cali and Sebastian Grubb climbed chairs and each other in the duet, “SAT,” which would have been dripping in homoerotic tension in the original casting but with mixed genders, the relationship became more ambiguous and thus perhaps more interesting. Cali in particular brought purpose to every step with a quiet, internal focus.

She also presented two solos (meant to be performed by her), each an ode to the “hag,” that must-have gay male accessory, otherwise known as a straight woman. In HAG 1, she enacted a drunken bar night in slow motion, the evening’s most comical moment. In HAG 2, perhaps suggesting the day after, she revealed a buried insecurity and a growing rage. Suddenly, the night prior didn’t seem so fun.

Sharing the bill that evening, Denia Dance presented two works for four women that were shocking for how out of place they felt. In revealing outfits, the women vamped through the space, staring outward with come-hither looks, inviting desire from an audience who in all likelihood could offer none. A perplexing inclusion, given the program’s stated objective.

Now about that tennis ball… In Love Match, two men engaged in an abstract game of tennis and courtship. Ultimately left alone, one man shifted from side to side, anticipating his opponent. Two tennis balls flew at him from the audience. I looked around. Was it time? No one else threw a ball. The lights faded. I had missed my cue.

And in a way, so had the company. Because having just seen the San Francisco Moving Men, all I could think about was the woman who stole the show.

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