The fun of going to six new pieces by young choreographers is the chance to see what’s on their minds and how they will fill a space with movement. And, if “Wild Bodies,” at ODC’s Studio B at 351 Shotwell is any indication, the answer is they range in ideas from super serious and glum to whimsical and full of energy.
You see these performances again today at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m
This is the 27th year of ODC’s Pilot 68, which selects and then assists new choreographers in developing, marketing and putting on their works. Yes, marketing is part of the 11 weeks and it should be noted that it was Alyssandra Katherine Wu’s enthusiastic e-mails and followups that got me there in the first place. (Unbeknownst to Wu this meant exchanging my SF Ballet tickets for later in the week.)
Wu’s work, “Glass Ceiling,” came last in the evening and it used a larger group of six dancers. One or two alternate skipping rope (the constancy of time ?) while the others move toward and away from a spot above the front right stage. The piece builds as dancers prevent and then assist others toward that ceiling. In the journey to the finale, there’s lots of energy and some inventive moves.
The best of the new works had this energy and I will go into some of them later, but first, the star work of the night belonged to Kristin Damrow, who, to be fair, has more choreographic experience than the others. Nonetheless, it was smart of ODC to have her in the mix as she must have inspired her fellow creators.
Damrow’s “An Idea” had what many of the others missed – simplicity and whimsy. The website says the “solo for a male performer focuses on character development and discovering genius.” Perhaps, but the piece seemed more a reflection of its title. A male dancer – in this case the excellent Patrick Barnes – has an idea of what moves he wants to make. He attempts them, fails, tries again, fails and after several other stops and starts, he gets it right and a sustained exhilarating sequence follows. It’s engaging and breathtaking.
Peter Cheng’s “Space Speaks” also succeeded in owning the space. The four dancers, including Cheng, dance solo, in pairs and as a group. The dancer’s extension and articulation do what Cheng’s title promises. The only off note was that at times the music worked well and at others it was irritatingly repetitive.
Carly Lave’s “Mimesis” also had some excellent dance combinations, but like “Edging” by Garth Grimball, also had some problems. Dancing is about movement in space, beauty and emotion. Lave’s piece deals with the “complicated notion of the politicized site of women’s bodies,” according to the program. That’s tough to do in a short piece – even more so when the makeup and music make the viewer feel transported to the Amazon.
Grimball kept it simple to consider “negative space and angles created by the human form.” For the most part, he and his dancers managed this beautifully, but his costuming was at cross purposes with his objective. The three dancers wore shapeless, flowing dresses and looked more like the three Graces than contemporary explorers of space.
“Holy Irreverent, Holy Root” by Lili Weckler was more a performance piece than dance. It was “an attempt to excavate and collectively mourn our internal experiences of the violence of contemporary capitalism,” but it failed to trigger anything except confusion. To be fair, Weckler’s objective was hugely ambitious. Some of the best political performances have been by such performers as the Guatemalan Regina José Galindo and I bring her up because one of Weckler’s performers seems to be washing herself with a basin of blood. The basin reminded me of Galindo’s brilliant performance in which she dipped her feet in blood and walked through the streets of Guatemala City. Evoking violence is more easily done with a spare visual.
That said, the time at the Shotwell Commons is well spent. There are young minds and dancers at work in ways that will only get better and ODC should be commended for continuing the program. Tickets for today are here.