Friday, February 04, 2011

Kelly Kemp & Company / Number 9

"7 ways to hide your self from the rest of the world"
ODC Theater, San Francisco, CA
January 30, 2011

ODC is filling San Francisco's Mission District with decadent dance performance in this, the inaugural season of their new theater and campus space.  Most recently, Kelly Kemp & Company / Number 9 graced the stage with "7 ways to hide your self from the rest of the world".  Well-developed structural modern choreography paired with an investigative narrative generated probing questions about how personal history informs current action.

One dancer began the piece by reciting a list of situations that happen in life; every sentence starting with the word 'when'.  Existing on different parts of the seriousness spectrum (i.e. 'when they got divorced' versus 'when I lost my keys'), some of the circumstances clearly occurred long ago while others may have transpired just last week.  The intoxicating part of the piece was not the introduction of these 'when' statements but instead the treatment of the 'then'.  Rather than responding with 'then I' or 'then this happened', the 'then' was expressed choreographically.  In the forty minutes that followed this first verbal segment, Kemp demonstrated that the reaction to specific instances can be so different: ambiguous, defined, slow, contentious or peaceful.

A long passage from the middle of "7 ways to hide your self from the rest of the world" really captured Kemp's narrative purpose.  A male soloist began onstage with three women and performed very freeing choreography, almost as if he was metaphorically purging these 'when' events from his consciousness and being.  Eventually the entire cast joined him, dancing in circular, expansive and uninhibited patterns.  Not everyone was moving at all times, in fact, some of the cast was at rest while others became swept up in their physicality.  Regardless, the whole scene was one of hopeful and successful cleansing; almost an exorcism of persistent demons.  However, Kemp did show that moving on is not always possible for everyone.  The recapitulation of the 'when' stories at the end of the work symbolized that sometimes what has happened in our lives still rages on in the head, heart and the soul no matter how hard we try or have tried to work past it.

Overall, the company was very impressive in their ability to translate the content through text and dance, though a couple of the company members were not as technically sound as the others.  I agree that not everyone in a given group needs to be the same; cookie cutter dance companies are a little predictable and boring to watch.  But, a general base level of technique is a good idea.          

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