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ODC/SF

Dancing Downtown 2002: Kimi Okada's "Sauce for the Goose," Brenda Way's "Raking Light" & KT Nelson's "Walk Before Talk"

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA

February 28, 2002
by Karen Drozda


It was a sumptuous feast of dance for the eye and mind, compounded of astonishing physical virtuosity, and penetrating psychological insight. ODC choreographers Brenda Way, KT Nelson, and Kimi Okada favored the audience with three luscious courses of complementing flavor and texture.

Opening the program with humor and pathos, Okada's Sauce for the Goose combines vaudevillian slapstick humor, with a penetrating look at individual and collective human behavior. Oversized suits and mid-century hats recall a time when behavior and dress were more uniform and proscribed. The troop enters the stage under the direction of an overbearing manager. With frantic movements they obey in unison and attempt to keep up with the increasingly arbitrary and hectic pace set by their leader. Different personal responses come out as they gradually they stop trying, and even make jokes behind his back.

A series of vignettes along the theme of group and individual allow different characters to experience the discomfort of being laughed at, measured up, ostracized, abandoned, or ignored by their peers. Clothing is removed, and hats are cast away with abandon. Yukie Fujimoto finds herself alone on stage, promptly removing her trousers and dancing a solo of poignant and unselfconscious revelation.

In the end it is both laugh-out-loud funny and profoundly disturbing, accurately striking deep emotional chords.

Presented as this yearís ODC Unplugged work in progress, Way's Raking Light appeared for the first time before audiences in its final form, complete with costumes and lighting. Inspired by the fugitive nature of light and the evocative canvases of Vermeer, it is a collaboration with composer Jay Cloidt, and lighting designer Alexander Nichols. Costumes by Amanda Williams.

The music for Raking Light started life as a piece for string quartet and tape called Eleven Windows. It was based on the idea of a piece composed of a series of short variations on a theme, combined to provide a single complex experience. Industrial scrapes and groans accompanied the string quartet, introducing a disquieting element to the dancersí movement.

The costumes are evocative of Flemish dress at the time of Vermeer, without being replicas of period costume. Great attention was paid to the subtlety of color, and the way that light is caught by the fabrics. Deep red velvets and golds predominate, in fabrics that appear to vibrate with a life of their own. The dancers perform their smoothly coordinated leaps, catches, and falls against a black background, with strong lighting from the side throwing their features into high relief.

The dancers drew an occasional gasp from the audience with the daring of their aerial work, and the convincing suddeness of their falls. It was often difficult to know where to look, as the different groups of dancers each deserved full attention. One vignette with a pregnant woman holding a balance, while riveting and evocative, seemed oddly unrelated to the other vignettes.

Nelson's Walk Before Talk provided a sharp contrast in mood and style to the first two pieces. Originally choreographed for Diablo Ballet, it demonstrated more of the qualities of classical ballet. The dancers moved in unison more often, making it was easier for the audience to follow.

Movement was lyrical and effortless, celebrating the joy and sensuality of the music by Michael Nymans. Four men enter with movement full of pomp and consequence, to a light and frivolous theme. Four women make their entrance, delicate and graceful in their diaphanous skirts, to a very heavy and forceful theme. Initially separate, the two themes eventually meet in a male/female duet, a womanís solo, and a collective wave of movement by all of the dancers.

As a showcase for the versatility of the ODC dancers and individuality of their choreographers, this program begs for a viewing of the other programs and pieces. ODCís 31st season promises to be a vibrant splash of color and motion, featuring four world premieres and six outstanding repertory favorites. Three weeks seems too short a time to appreciate the three separate programs, leaving dance fans struggling to see it all and fearful of missing any of it.

 

Please join a discussion of this performance in our forum.

Edited by Marie.


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