Community Center’s resident dance artist to perform Greek mythology solo

‘Venemous’ tells Medusa’s story from the perspective of the monster.|

Sonoma Community Center’s resident dance artist will be performing a full-length, dance-theater solo based on Medusa from Greek mythology.

Her story is more than 2,000 years old, but what would Medusa say if she finally had a chance to speak for herself? Jessica Fudim hopes to answer that question by inviting the audience to see things from Medusa’s perspective and move her story beyond that of a monster.

The themes of “Venomous” play between whimsy and darkness. She combines contemporary movement, storybook tableaus, unabashed party dancing and an eclectic sound score that includes a traditional Greek lullaby, tracks from the swingin’ '60s and live electric guitar.

The theatrics of “Venomous” move beyond the traditional performance area of the stage. She’ll play with other features at historic Andrew’s Hall, located inside the community center, a place near and dear to her heart.

“I have sweet memories of performing on that stage in the early '90s, when I danced with the Sonoma Ballet Conservatory and with our Sonoma Valley High School dance teacher, Lara Branen,” Fudim said in a news release.

As she has delved into Medusa’s story during her dance residency at the center, she has found her own history in Sonoma circling back to her, especially with the help of assistant director Evra Baldinger, another Sonoma native and Fudim’s childhood friend.

“I’m grateful that this project has reconnected me with amazing, local people like my schoolmate Molly Spencer, who teaches dance and champions the performing arts at the Sonoma Community Center, my former teachers and other old friends,” Fudim said.

She has been working in dance-theater for more than two decades in the Bay Area and beyond. She recently moved from San Francisco back to Sonoma with her husband and two children.

“Evra and I used to make these radical, modern dance pieces in high school,” Fudim said. “I’m grateful that we had a platform for that as teenagers and here we are, working together again, more than thirty years later! We are both working moms, so we have to be creative and efficient with our production schedule.”

Baldinger lives in San Francisco, so they work together via video chats, phone calls and emails. Their conversations have helped bring Fudim’s multimedia look at Medusa to life.

When it comes to her exploration of Medusa’s story, Fudim wonders about things such as, “What was it like for Medusa to be cursed by Athena?” Everyone who looked at her would turn to stone — how isolating must that have been?

Amid the darker themes of the piece, Fudim finds ways to be playful, with party scenes, collaborative rewrites, shimmering frocks and small puppets.

Even though Medusa is a fictional character, Fudim sees her as a relevant person, especially as her show kicks off Women’s History Month. Fudim relishes the opportunity to give voice to Medusa, and at the same time, she knows that is in itself a complicated act.

“Venomous” will run for one weekend only, on Saturday, March 4 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 5 at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $20 and may be purchased online at sonomacommunitycenter.org. Sonoma Community Center is located at 276 E. Napa St., Sonoma, CA.

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