Sunday, August 12, 2012

ODC/Dance Summer Sampler

ODC Theater, San Francisco
August 11th, 2012

So many San Francisco/Bay Area dance companies have embraced new ways to share their work with the audience.  In addition to their ‘primary’ home seasons, many groups are now offering shorter mixed repertory collections in smaller more intimate settings.  This brings dancers, patrons and the choreography itself together in a very different, yet exciting way.  RAWdance has its ‘Concept Series’, Diablo Ballet invites us ‘Inside the Dancer’s Studio’ and ODC/Dance offers a ‘Summer Sampler’.  This year’s ‘Summer Sampler’ was not only a unique opportunity to see a major company off-season but also a chance to say goodbye to one of their long-time dancers, Daniel Santos.

Saturday’s program featured choreography spanning the past six years, with KT Nelson’s “Cut Out Guy” (2012) and Brenda Way’s “Unintended Consequences” (2008) and “Parts Of A Longer Story” (2006).  In the program notes, Nelson shared that “Cut Out Guy” was a tribute to school-aged competitive wrestlers.  She handily captured the complex array of skills and traits that is these phenomenal athletes.  The notions of balance, centeredness, agility, litheness and grace abounded through the dancing of Dennis Adams, Justin Andrews, Corey Brady, Daniel Santos and Jeremy Smith.  Looseness was illustrated by ‘shaking’ sequences, flexibility in the leg extensions and the strength, oh my, the feats of strength she created.  Adams picked up one of the other dancers on his shoulders and upper back, rising all the way from the floor to standing.  Another dancer balanced himself in the air by holding onto only the torso of a second dancer.  Nelson and these 5 men were totally ‘in the zone’ with this study of physical and mental ability.

I did like both the movement and the performances in “Unintended Consequences (A Meditation)” - especially Vanessa Thiessen’s opening variation and the final unison section - though the piece was really the weakest of the three.  Chunks of differing choreographic material had been put together in sequence but were lacking any transitional linkage.  Much of the dance seemed like it came out of nowhere and was artistically independent from and unrelated to what had just occurred.  Maybe that was Way’s intention with this work; a kind of absurdist take on juxtaposing unrelated movement.

Photo: Margo Moritz
It was well worth the wait to see Way’s “Part Of A Longer Story” as the ‘Summer Sampler’ finale.  ODC/Dance performed Parts I and II of this 2006 work and it was absolutely magical.  Set to Mozart’s gorgeous Clarinet Concerto in A Major, Way managed to create an interdependent relationship between the music and the movement,  each breathing life into the other.  I don’t use the word masterpiece very often, but “Parts Of A Longer Story” is a true masterpiece, one of those once-in-a-lifetime creations.  Genre-wise, the work is a fusion of traditional ballet and modern whimsy: attitude turns ending with a hand flourish, slow developp├ęs culminating with a staccato flexed foot.   Part II, a long duet between Santos and Thiessen, was all about sustained regality.  Through the lushly beautiful, yet simple musical theme, promenades glided, hands floated and legs lengthened as far away from the body as was humanly possible.  Here was a true pas de deux, a dance of two, where the first half finds Santos and Thiessen dancing in the same space, yet separately.  And then, right before the final recapitulation of the theme, they come together for an even fuller understanding and statement of suspension.  Way has captured the perfect physical representation of the long appoggiatura, a non-chord note which sits in dissonance and then finally leans into its musical resolution.  Stunning.  This piece will live forever.  


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