Jody Oberfelder Dance Projects

December 7, 2005

(Bottom to top) Carlton Ward, Elise Knudson, and Rebekah Morin in
Photo by Jillian Patterson, courtesy Jody Oberfelder Dance Projects.


Jody Oberfelder Dance Projects
Dixon Place at the Clark Theater, New York, NY

December 7–11, 2005

Reviewed by Carrie Stern


Three figures stand on their heads in dim light. Slowly, straight legs lower. Bending at the hips, bare-chested dancers in scrunchy, skinlike costumes unfold into the “worm,” break-dancers in primordial ooze.

(the title plays on “lineage”—line of descent, lines, age) is choreographer Jody Oberfelder’s musings on the passage of time. Ten short dances seamlessly blend circus skills, contact improvisation-like supports, and traditional technique, taking Elise Knudson and Rebekah Morin from birth through a spectacular ascent via spinning harnesses to—well, a circus in the sky.

The dancers—completed by Carlton Ward—lovingly curve their bodies around each other, unfolding in the air into flower-like shapes. Balancing on each other’s thighs, arms, and bellies, they step from shoulder to shoulder, helping each other navigate via support under an arm, or with a strong back. In one segment, prone dancers are asked, “Are you OK?” Rhythmic breathing into mouths and thumping on chests leads into a spinal contraction, a slapped heel; the phrase ends with a kiss. The dancers tango, sashaying as they swing each other, sometimes off the ground. They are not serious; they seem to enjoy each other and their high-flying, complicated couplings.

Oberfelder’s early solo sets her vocabulary and makes her theme clear. Making hash marks, she hides the last ones, then opens her arms and reveals her age. After tracing her body with chalk (a recurring motif), she places her hands in her outline’s empty footprints, then marks the center of her body with a spinning headstand and swings an arabesque through her ghostly midline. In a more pointed time reference, Ward flips and spins a ruler like a vaudeville cane; his solo ends with his torso and knees slowly collapsing as the ruler measures his path through life.

Evocative stories and poems by film writer Coleman Hough highlight and explain the action. Wonderfully engaging tangos, blues, accordion music, and disco make you want to join the dancers. A short film, Life Line, was screened near the end of the evening and features the beautiful, older dancer Martha Myers, the young Audrey Winslow, and Oberfelder’s dancers. Moving in and on lines, the dancers hold each other through seasons at the beach, the graphic action of the film making Oberfelder’s metaphor real. See