Lizz Roman & Dancers

"8 1/2 x 11" & "Playing in Stable Places"

ODC Theater, San Francisco, CA

October 26, 2001
by Karen Drozda

Okay. It's Modern Dance. Which means that it plays with your expectations in as many ways as possible, all in the interest of expanding your horizons. The reception in our group alone ran the full gamut from wild enthusiasm to complete indifference. I'd say that's a successful piece of modern art.

After we all arrived (all being a total of about thirty) the audience was separated into two groups and led in different directions. From that point we were led on separate tracks through a series of spaces, where we watched the eleven dancers perform a series of vignettes. Our group started by walking outside and positioning ourselves on the sidewalk. The dancers performed outside, dancing equally on the sidewalk, the walls, the window sills, and the doorway. A throaty saxophone underlined the languid athleticism of the dancers. The life of the neighborhood moved along at it's own pace, sometimes moving through the dance without any visible effect. Life and dance existed in parallel worlds, each oblivious of the other.

Guided by our usher, we climbed an inside stair in almost total darkness to sit a variety of rooms, stairwells, and corridors. Pieces of the picture gradually fell into place. Our view of the dancers was framed by doorways, mirrors, low walls, and other architectural elements. For the most part, each dancer sprang with ease from the wall, floor, stair or ceiling. Occasionally it appeared that the walls were harder for some dancers than for others. My personal favorite was when one dancer performed a stately barre routine while standing on one foot on top of the newel post of the stair.

Outside again, we saw the first vignette from a different perspective, connecting us viscerally to the other group who must have stood in this place while we were around the corner before. And probably now were standing where we had stood before. Another revelation came when we sat in the same room as the musicians, and realized that the music we had been hearing over speakers had been played in an adjacent room. The ensemble consisted of Talitha Jones on cello, Jill Justine Shaw on keyboards, and a young man who appeared to be playing an I-Mac notebook.

The title of the piece is revealed only after reading the program. It refers to a site specific installation of 11 dancers in 8-1/2 locations. This seemed the least interesting of the evenings revelations.

Lizz Roman says it's all about the dance. Not to contradict her, but I'd say that it's also about point of view, framing, and discovery. It's about bodies exploring and defining space, small spaces as well as larger ones. Horizontal surfaces as well as vertical ones. It's about what you see and what you don't see, but know to be there. The intersection of life and dance. The interaction between audience and performer.

Lizz herself is the heart and soul of the company. She is warm, and energetic to the point of manic. The style is her own unique mix of modern dance, classical ballet and contact improv. She cares deeply about her dancers, and about her audience. It is a shame that her audience must be so small, but that is an essential part of this type of experience. It is unclear where she will go from here, but the results are guaranteed to be provocative.


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Edited by Mary Ellen.

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