De la Tête aux Pieds

February 26, 1999

Judson Caldeira and choreographer Sonya Delwaide perform her new work De la Tete aux Pieds at ODC Theater in San Francisco.
Photo by Michael Slobodian, courtesy of Sonya Delwaide

De la Tête aux Pieds

ODC Theater, california
February 26-28, 1999

Reviewed by Rita Felciano

San Francisco-Sonya Delwaide’s recent move from her native Québec is good news for the San Francisco Bay Area. As a performer, the long-limbed dancer with the articulate body has impressed with the integrity and excitement of her high-voltage performances. In this concert, which included three world premieres, she also presented herself as a choreographer working for the first time with dancers outside her own Compagnie de Danse L’Astragale. Delwaide has a good eye for movement, although its shaping is not always convincing.Lui (“Him”), a solo for former Broadway dancer Frank Shawl, is an impish piece of non-nostalgic looking at the past through the eyes of the present, despite some crotch-grabbing gestures that quickly wore thin. Restricted mainly to upper body and arm movements, the dreamy middle section of the piece, with its long, sliding sideways steps, revealed Shawl as the elegant dancer he once was.

Chuchotements (“Whisperings”) was made for AXIS Dance Company, two of whose members performed in wheelchairs, while a third for a time had her mobility restricted by the train of her costume which was attached to one corner of the ceiling. The work used a Telemann score as a conceit for Baroque salon intrigue. Formal comportment-smoothly gliding wheelchairs in mirroring patterns can be quite elegant-amusingly contrasted with an occasional moue or disdainful gesture. A triangular tug of war had its moments of preciousness, particularly in the way the dancer on legs was pushed, pulled, folded, rolled, and cradled, but the equanimity of its resolution was satisfying.

With Les Voisins (“The Neighbors”), a duo for herself and Kate Weare, Delwaide picked up a thread she first spun in the 1995 Du Balcon: isolation and self-absorption. The overlong initial solos pitted Delwaide’s fulminating and fierce verticality on one side of a wooden fence against Weare’s more expansive, lower-to-the-ground physicality. The piece became more intriguing as the two women-one high-strung, the other weighty-found themselves together in an erotically charged duet in which each dancer fed off the other’s energies.

Least communicative was 100 Fois (“100 Times”), a solo for Suzanne Gallo that involved lots of hair, including what you pull out of your comb. Here it was worshiped, and in the end carried off as an offering. Gallo’s athletic expressivity could not make up for the jejune quality of this pseudoritual.

Mel Wong’s Hidden Histories was a last-minute substitute in this otherwise all-Delwaide program. Wong clearly knows the unique qualities in this special dancer (she used to perform in his company). An excellent choice, History is intelligent and intriguing in its use of oppositions-in space and within the body-as well as in its recurring phrases and admirably jumbled moods. It’s a bravura piece for Delwaide and she shone in it.

Watch for the fall preview of ODC Theatre’s season in the October issue of Dance Magazine.