Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA
March 3–20, 2005
Reviewed by Rita Felciano
Brenda Way’s On a Train Heading South shouldn’t have worked, but it did—at least partially. One of four premieres—two by Way, two by co-artistic director KT Nelson—presented during ODC Dance’s home season, Train tackled an unlikely subject for dance: global warming. Instead of hitting home the obvious political points, Way focused on the folly of a society that ignores omnipresent warning signs, here suggested by suspended blocks of ice that sent their dripping message drop by drop onto the madly cavorting dancers below.
Though brilliantly performed, after a while the antics of the crotch-grabbing gambolers, who preened in fractured encounters when they didn’t climb over each other or high-kick their way through another party scene, began to lose some of their punch. Dancer Anne Zivolich’s increasingly desperate prophetess in her own land, however, injected Train with a haunting note of tragedy.
Way’s other premiere, the breezy something of a nightingale, showcased four male dancers (Daniel Santos, Brian Fisher, Justin Flores, and Corey Brady), with Yukie Fujimoto and Andrea Flores. Its wit arose from the puffs of non sequiturs that jostled expectations at every push of a finger or plop down in front of a partner. Santos seemed to be an intermediary between male-bonding guys and primping gals. A duet between Fisher and the luscious Fujimoto suggested a silent-movie encounter.
Nelson’s premieres, Shenanigans and Lost at Sea, showcased this increasingly fascinating choreographer’s voice in two different keys, both of them imaginative and musically astute. For the rubber-limbed, perfectly timed movement in Shenanigans, think of Myrna Loy and William Powell—not just tipsy, but rip-roaring drunk. Zivolich and Private Freeman, both in formal attire, tumbled, crawled, and flopped all over, each in perfect response to Darius Milhaud’s jazz-flavored Scaramouche. All the piece needed was live music, preferably with the pianists onstage.
In the darkly luminous Lost at Sea, the dancers moved through a physical environment that suspended notions of gravity, verticality, and directionality. The slow-motion walks on legs or hands, or over another’s body, were somehow disturbing. Phil Kline’s minimalist-flavor score for strings was a perfect choice for these unsettled, slippery encounters.
Except for Force of Circumstance (Yayoi Kambara, Zivolich, and Andrea Flores were less than secure in their parts), the remainder of the repertoire received stellar performances. ODC’s remarkably individual dancers have never been better, and the longer they stay with the company, the more they become themselves.
For more information: www.odcdance.org