Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Making the Road by Walking"

Photo by Claire Gilbert
The ODC Dance Jam Home Season
ODC Dance Commons, San Francisco, CA
April 17, 2011

The ODC Dance Jam, performed by the inspiring young dancers of ODC's youth company, celebrated the gift of movement.  Under the direction of Kimi Okada and KT Nelson, this group is dedicated to preserving the heritage and lineage of modern dance, in addition to pursuing the genre's current trends and innovations.  Okada and Nelson are providing a complete and comprehensive dance education, unlike any program I have ever seen.  What a unique opportunity to see the dancers at this stage of their training -  in process: learning their craft, developing their technique and presenting their work onstage.  The ODC Dance Jam offers two important perspectives: the choreography, the making of dance combined with the teaching and fostering of talent, the making of dancers.

The opening piece, Nelson's "There's So Much to Do (to save the world)"  really embodied the discovery and understanding of modern dance technique.  It was obvious that the troupe is working very hard to achieve a true second position in both developpĂ© and grand battement.  The dancers are learning how to maximize turnout, engage the hip flexor and relax the thigh muscle while working in their own individual second position.  They are also spending significant time and energy defining the different paths of grand battement and developpĂ©.  This attention to proper placement and technique is going to serve them well as they continue to dance, either recreationally or professionally. 

Greg Dawson's "Output 1-2" showed that these kids are also mastering partnering skills.  Partnering is always a delicate balance of working independently and interdependently; you must first know your part inside and out, and only then can you work with another dancer as a unified team.  Bravo to Okada and Nelson for sharing the essential pas de deux equation: personal responsibility + trust + respect.

The remaining dances were indicative of the choreographic and stylistic variety that exists in the modern dance lexicon.  "Mixing Ground", choreographed by Bliss Kohlmyer, juxtaposed angular, staccato actions with flowy circular sequences while Nol Simonse's "Space Walk" added contact improvisation.  "The Crowd" harkened back to the post-modern era with the influence of pedestrian movement and everyday gestures.  And though I am not a fan of Kim Epifano's "Melt" (I've seen it before and it is still far too 'on the nose' narratively), it does provide an introduction to interdisciplinary performance.  These days, dancers are called upon to fill many roles, so a piece that incorporates song, text and movement is an important part of their education. 

If you have never been to the ODC Dance Jam, you must add it to your 'to-do' list.  After seeing the performance last weekend, I know that I will be reviewing some of these young dancers over the next decade or two as they become members of the professional dance scene.

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