Sunday, April 27, 2014

Company C Contemporary Ballet

ODC Theater, San Francisco
April 25th, 2014

Company C Contemporary Ballet opened its spring season Friday night at ODC Theater in San Francisco's Mission District. A mixed repertory evening, the program expressed and captured the chamber company's dynamic twelve year history. “Aposiopesis” (2002) and “Partly Cloudy Suite” (2005) were joined by three 2014 works - “What's Behind Door #3” (which had its first performance earlier this year) and two world premieres, “New Country” and “Rise”. Aptly subtitled 'Adjusting the Lens', the five pieces on this program led the viewer on a journey through the genres, techniques and styles that makes up today's contemporary ballet scene.

Charles Moulton's “New Country” (world premiere) opened the program with high energy and enthusiastic vigor. Choreographic fusion filled the stage - ballet meeting up with a unique brand of country dancing. The resulting hybrid style conjured the culture of the Appalachian mountains, and with it brought a narrative of tradition and community through the stories of the people. Next up was an excerpt from Charles Anderson's ode to abstraction, “Aposiopesis”. In the third and fourth movements of this ballet, a circular theme was pre-dominant in both the larger stage patterning and the individual choreographic sequences. Upper body port de bras and renversés revealed the circle's expansive arches and broad curves. Edilsa Armendariz and Isaiah Sumler were absolutely sublime as the lead couple; when they were onstage, you couldn't take your eyes off them. Their pas de deux personified total abandon and complete trust. And as Sumler lifted Armendariz behind his back in a repeated attitude motif, “Aposiopesis'” circular focus reached new heights. Closing Act I was Anderson's “What's Behind Door #3”, a completely contrasting, concept-based ballet. Having been respectively preceded by a deconstructed narrative and an abstract work, “What's Behind Door #3” brought mechanics to the table. The piece was an exploration of how doors function and a translation of that mechanism into contemporary ballet and modern physicality.

Onto Act II and Patrick Corbin's “Partly Cloudy Suite”, an ensemble work for five women and one man. Chairs bordered the perimeter of the stage; an air and sense of casual-ness permeating the space. Dancers would take turns moving to the center and cycling through an assortment of variations, while the others sat calmly and watched the technique. It was a little like observing a dance class. Perhaps it was this casual nature or the lack of dynamics, but “Partly Cloudy Suite” seemed a little stale, and it was also very curious to have only one of the women wearing flat ballet shoes. Last on the docket for Company C's spring program was the world premiere of Maurice Causey's “Rise”. The ballet began with a sense of the expected and the predictable and quickly morphed into a gorgeous expression of the surprising and unforeseen. Conventional contemporary ballet suffused the opening moments, almost like Causey was setting a base-line. One that he would challenge and dissolve over the next thirty minutes. Quickly and with intensity, the movement ventured into off-center balances, parallel legs, atypical positions and men in pointe shoes. The score similarly shifted to include changing meters and complex time signatures. “Rise” was an essay of these delicious deviations. An otherwise flawless example of modern choreography, the lighting in the early segments was tough. Over and over again, a spotlight appeared on the stage floor and then floated upward to the backdrop. While the intention behind this particular effect certainly made sense for the piece, in reality, it distracted from what was actually happening on stage. 

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