Monday, March 03, 2014

"The Aftermath Affair"

Photo: Roel Q Seeber
Blind Tiger Society
ODC Theater, San Francisco
February 28th, 2014

Friday night at ODC was a scene of something special as Blind Tiger Society opened “The Aftermath Affair”, choreography and artistic direction by Bianca Cabrera. An hour-long ensemble work for sixteen female dancers, “The Aftermath Affair” is what twenty-first century modern dance should aspire to. A conceptually narrative, contemporary dance piece, “The Aftermath Affair” posits a co-existing community, where surrounding situations, environment and circumstances are in a constant state of flux. And in that community, each member desperately clings to the authenticity of their inner self, all while being an active participant in the larger group. Cabrera has created a hypnotic, visceral and spellbinding conversation where the individual and the collective can meet.

While each performer maintained a sense of their personal integrity, choreographic catalysts were introduced. And so, choices were required. A gorgeous combination of large and small physicality, the opening duet was all about reaction. From small reflexive movements to larger vast motions, everything was a reaction to outside stimuli. As the piece went on, more external forces were introduced and the choices continued. Sometimes they were slight adjustments - vibrating shoulders were one recurring example. Others were much more encompassing, as demonstrated by the numerous contact improvisation-style duets.

Cabrera’s choreographic syntax produced some truly beautiful sequences. Parallel boureés traveled backwards at lightning-fast speeds. Pirouettes fed directly into grand rond de jambes in plié. In several instances, all sixteen dancers mellifluously flew through the space, each executing a different variation. Here was a dynamic and diverse group of technically proficient performers, who had also been incredibly well-rehearsed. And in the final scene, the entire ensemble took the stage in a reiteration of “The Aftermath Affair’s” theme: moving as individuals, but in the context of the whole.   

Obviously, strength was key to the entire work, but it didn’t just show up in the narrative or in the choreography, it is was present in everything – strength of intention; strength of process; strength of performance. And the choreography had the chance to shine because there was just the right amount of collaboration. So many dance productions go overboard when it comes to collaborative partners, which makes for a very frenetic end product. “The Aftermath Affair” left all that hoopla aside. A non-linear narrative expressed through solid modern technique was joined by costuming, lighting design and an original score by Ben Juodvalkis, who is quickly becoming the go-to composer for Bay Area contemporary dance companies.

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