Amy Seiwert brought three amazing pieces to the ODC Theater for this engagement: “Traveling Alone” (2012); “Starting Over at the End” (2015 — a collaboration with ODC’s KT Nelson); and “Back To” (2015). All three works displayed the virtuosity of her company’s nine dancers and an expansive direction for classical ballet to new expressive dimensions.
“Traveling Alone” is an older piece, performed in toe shoes, and is the most conventional in terms of movement vocabulary. Dana Benton starts as a soloist in a red tutu, challenging the stage space with explosive locomotion, turns and leaps. The company, ladies in white mini-tutus, enters and execute several duets with changing partners. Sarah Griffin, James Gilmer and Liang Fu bring focus to the work with their trio. The score is by Max Richter.
The center work, “Starting Over at the End” evolved as the two choreographers, Seiwert and Nelson, “explored the theme of isolation.” Seiwert was artist in residence at ODC for five weeks. The dancers were active in the process. Although Nelson’s work is in modern dance and Seiwert’s in ballet, the vocabularies mesh in this work.
Performed to Franz Schubert songs (“An Die Nachtigall,” “Der Zwerg,” “Auf dem Wasser zu singen,” “Du Bist Die Ruh”), the piece has a lyric quality and more extended dynamic phrases than usually seen in short ballets. Again, Griffen and Gilmer shine, although all emerge with full artistry. Contemporary ballet now employs full use of the floor for balances, contact and other almost acrobatic feats. All of these add to the power of this work.
Sometimes, it is almost too much. So many sequences of complex movement follow one another, the viewer often is unable to catch it all. As a mid-20th century trained dancer, this reviewer asks to follow a dynamic line without interruption and to make sense of ever changing arm and hand gestures. All that aside, “Starting Over” is a marvelous piece.
As a charming finale, “Back To” was danced to folk songs by Gillan Welch and David Rawlings (with many witty and soulful lyrics) and was a tour de force involving both soulful and comic behavior enlisting the use of bench as prop on which the dancers stood, walked, rolled, balanced and were “laid-out.” Toe shoes were abandoned (for me, releasing the torso and upper body for more expression). The duets, especially between Brandon Freeman and James Gilmer, were extraordinary. Again, so many feats were presented so quickly that one hardly had time to take it all in. It leaves you breathless.
The remarkable dancers are Sarah Griffin, Brandon Freeman, Rachel Furst, James Gilmer, Annali Rose, Danielle Bausinger, Liang Fu, Richard Walters and guest artist Dana Benton. The company will travel to New York’s Joyce Theater Aug. 15-16, 2015, and can be seen in San Francisco again during the Trolley Dances, Oct. 16-17, 2015. They well deserve to be seen over and over again.
Joanna G. Harris