ODC/Dance Program I
If you are going to unnerve audiences with a dance in which toy airplanes appear to fly directly at them and dancers manage to stay seated in upside down chairs, it is probably wise to flank it with more serene works to the orderly music of Bach. That at least is how ODC arranged its first program of two offered during its 36th annual home season.
In artistic director Brenda Way’s newest work, A Pleasant Looking Woman in Sensible Clothes, set to a discordant score by David Lang, the planes represent the intrusion into everyday lives of government surveillance, certainly a timely subject, if not one that easily lends itself to subtle dramatization. Though the video by the Japanese artist Hiraki Sawa projected on a large backlit screen is captivating with its zooming planes and scenes of domesticity, like many videos employed by choreographers, it often competes with the dance.
Way creates some wonderfully juicy movement that conveys feelings of confusion, fear, and dread. The vigorous and attractive dancers, colorfully dressed in amusing ‘50s suburban outfits by designer Cassandra Carpenter, shrug and freeze, wildly leap and spiral to the floor, and throw themselves into spins. Andrea Flores and Brandon Freeman are especially animated as people tortured by unknown demons. But once Way has established her premise, the dance stands still, its seriousness undermined by the almost silly planes flying about.
And then there was Bach. Or really Bach came first, with co artistic director KT Nelson’s new Scramble, a quartet for two men and two women set to Bach’s Cello Suite no 6 in D Major. It is a joyous work full of inventive, often appealingly pedestrian, gestures—a blown kiss, a furtive touch—that look just right combined with more traditional ballet and jazz movement. The dancers Anne Zivolich and Daniel Santos, Elizabeth Farotte and Justin Flores embody lovers who are both playful and sad, independent and demanding, covering such a full range of emotions that you wonder how Nelson could get so much feeling into one piece.
Way’s Investigating Grace, a revival to Glenn Gould’s 1955 recording of the Goldberg Variations, equaled Scramble in its range of movement and emotion. Freeman and the radiant Joanna Berman, a former principal with the San Francisco Ballet, made an engrossing pair, creating a sumptuous world of turns and lifts and athletic jumps within the music. The two Bach pieces more than made up for the disappointing A Pleasant Looking Woman in Sensible Clothes.