ODC/Dance Downtown
Photo: Andrew Weeks

ODC/Dance Downtown

“Giant” (2016)
“Blink of an Eye (World Premiere)

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
San Francisco
ODC Dance Link

Choreographer Kate Weare’s “Giant” kicked off program one of a two-week run at YBCA called “Dance Downtown.” Her smart staging and choreography was handsomely matched by the lighting and scenic design of Matthew Antaky and by Jay Cloidt’s eclectically layered soundscape. Antaky framed “Giant” with upstage curtains that expanded and contracted to compress and expand space and to distinguish segments. His stark white lighting created a similar intensity and often reflected on three large rectangular white strips that marked the floor. Within this minimal structure nine energetic dancers often ran, sometimes solo and often as a group. At times they manipulated each other into yoga poses and ballet moves taking turns as puppet and puppeteer, with several dancers maneuvering one dancer at a time, lifting one limb or their entire body through space. Weare used counterpoint staging with a duet down stage and a single dancer holding space upstage as Cloidt’s score moved from techno jungle music to harpsichord, from choral to Chinese revolutionary marching music. Segments with the four male dancers (Jeremy Smith, Jeremy Brannon-Neches, Alec Guthrie, Brandon Freeman) were the most lyrical and sensual and contrasted the waves of woman moving more like a flock of sandpipers scurrying about. “Giants” flowed between these two poles of hyper activity and intimate connection. Mary Domenico’s costumes were striking for their color of gunpowder gray with accents of orange and teal but sometimes too blouse-like, distracting from the dancer’s silhouette and feeling cumbersome.

KT Nelson’s “Blink of an Eye” was less confined than “Giant’” and meanders like a walk-about through props and undefined floor space. What it lacked in originality it made up for with an effervescent and vibrant quality and at times, a Pina Bausch slapstick sensibility with its use of costume accessories as props. The piece starts with dancers in simple gym clothing walking a wardrobe rack across the stage as others carry props or push a moveable theatrical spotlight on a dolly. Jeremy Smith began a solo upstage being lit by the portable spotlight as dancers, one at a time, attached costume pieces to him and then removed them while he was still dancing. Were they trying things on for size or attempting to represent the passing of time through the costumes and roles we try on during the course of a life? Or were they references to cultural and social fashions of times past? These remnants of white costumes–top hat, ascot, laurel wreath, cuffs…even a hoop skirt–disappeared and reappeared at various times throughout. But the most enjoyable moments were those without and again the male dancers, as in “Giant,” danced together for the more poetic and enduring segments with strong and supple Smith often being the Maypole that the other dancers gravitated around. “Blink of an Eye” gradually become more surefooted as it moves towards its crescendo with the ensemble working tightly together.

Program one is a satisfying performance with the two different dances often seeming to meld in and out of one another, using the same vibrant dancers and a similar range of choreography. It did make for an enticing invitation to see program two this next week.

David E. Moreno

David E. Moreno E-RYT500, YACEP, SFT, is an internationally recognized yoga instructor who came to yoga after dancing professionally in a variety of modern dance companies and light opera productions. He also trained in experimental dance including the early phases of Steve Paxton's contact improv, the environmental happenings of Anna Halprin, and the deep inner dance of Continuum with Emilie Conrad. His commentaries on yoga have been featured in an assortment of yoga journals and magazines, and he is the producer of yoga DVDs and eBooks. www.moryoga.com