ODC’s 2017 Summer Sampler

31 Jul

There are few San Francisco Bay Area dance enthusiasts and observers who don’t privately or publicly stand with respect and varying degrees of awe at the achievement of O.C./SF’s three Graces: Brenda Way, K.T. Nelson and Kimi Okada. With a series of five-year plans, they bought a building on `17th Street off South Van Ness, while teaching and running a company whose dancers I have been told are on year-long salaries and are allowed to dance elsewhere when O.C. rehearsals, performances and seasons are not required. Then came the O.C. Commons, a facility housing the administrative offices, some half dozen studios, a Pilates clinic and the capacity to host studio performances. Under Brenda Way’s guidance and with the aid of Lori Laqua, O.C.’s first building was rehabbed with its ceiling lifted, a studio, a green room added and a café very much in action when the July 27th evening started this year’s Summer Sampler in the B. Way Theater.

We were introduced to a collaboration between K.T. Nelson and Park Na Hoon [Korean style name placement] Of Seoul, Korea involving three dancers: Jeremy Smith, Rachel Furst and Mia J. Chong, the latter an impressive apprentice with the company. The title was written in Hang-gul, the Korean method devised early in the Choson Dynasty, just before or at the same time Christopher Columbus ventured forth. The longest piece in the four-part program, the trio was standing together as the audience filed in to take their seats. The piece, to music by Joon Yang Yong [again Korean style] and Johann Paul Van Westhoff, concerned the human dilemma of closeness, almost to the point of claustrophobia, to divergence to the point of chaos.

Chong I found impressive for her ability to convey almost the opposite of the Asian feminine stereotype, besides being a very good dancer. Jeremy Smith and Rachel Furst somehow conveyed a more conventional cohesion and rebellion.

This collaboration was followed by a 1974 visual plot by Brenda Way, titled Format II with notes and explanations printed in the program. Private Freeman and Daniel Santos undertook the challenge of performing with Tegan Schwab and Lani Yamanaka as time keepers. Translated, that means complicated with minute signals being conveyed to either dancer by their designated time keeper. Freeman and Santos were garbed in white shirts, black ties, twill trousers and sneakers, and, incidentally, were scheduled on Saturday to reverse the roles with their respective timekeepers. There were A, B and C sections with the time keepers dominating the sequence and the 12 minute material. For virtuosity, Format II qualified in spades.

Kimi Okada’s work, Head in the Sand, followed intermission, featuring Natasha Adorlee Johnson, Alex Guthrie, Jeremy Bannon-Neches and Keon Saghari. A premiere, Okada used So Percussion/Matmos, Uakti, Brian Eno to explore the phenomenon of loss. What do we do ?

Okada explored highly individualized responses, frenetic and manic before the quartet began to acknowledge loss for other human beings and to attempt, with visibly touching movement and rapport, the attempt to bridge the self concern and supply comfort to others.

From 1995, Excerpt: Part of a Longer Story, Brenda Way chose Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto for a gorgeous pas de deux for Private Freeman and Tegan Schwab. The eleven-minute push-pull, connection-retreat, passionate embrace-frightened withdrawal was breath-taking enough to linger in my mind for most of the following day.

The O.C. trio has begun to work towards a cohesive program celebrating fifty years in San Francisco. Now, I think at year 46, these three Fates have the situation well in hand, And lucky enough to have superb dancers for their subjects.


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