Tag Archives: Ben Frost

ODC’s Succulent Summer Sampler

23 Jul

Succulent usually refers to a plant which is hardy and can last through dry spells without withering all that much. Not a glamorous attribute, but why knock the sturdy? Especially when the contours and edges frequently display unusual shades and shapes. The 2016 Summer Sampler at ODC’s B Way Theatre provided this quality to the July 22 audiences for three short numbers, two of which were reprises, one a work in progress.

The partially formed work was attributed to K. T. Nelson, not yet titled, to a mix of music by Julia Wolk, Ben Frost, Frideric Handel, Hauschka probably collated by Natasha Adorelee Johnson, who doubled as dancer and sound engineer, the results performed by the entire company.

Nelson’s conceptual map knows little boundaries though the development can seem, at times, perfunctory in its visual support. She is not normally one to explore a theme that’s small scaled; the impact is one mesmerizing by the dancers’ skill, musculature and the rush of the theme thundering on the heels of the dancers’ considerable technique. Nelson is concerned here about the human place in our universe of technology and what does it do to our cultural inheritance.

Jeremy Smith started the adventure, shaved head, and minimal garments, making almost Egyptian profile movements and flexing his arms and hands. He is interrupted by Brandon “Private” Freeman and the two exchange body grasps, lifts and shuffles. Gradually the women make their appearance, also minimally clothed in short trunks or skirts. But they come sporting props which they place briefly on Smith – a white wig, a neck ruff, a lace gilet – a Soldier’s cap – before removing them. Tegan Schwab arrived with a fan which she gives to Smith, there is a white plume on another woman’s head – the ‘Twenties, perhaps or possibly le regime ancien.
This succession gives the audience a quick historical references as the other company members appear with similar reference points. The movements, some breath-taking lifts and tumbles, call prior formalities into question.

Following a pause, Brandon “Private” Freeman reprised Going Solo (2016), seen to such advantage at ODC’s Dancing Down Town season. Freeman’s mid-sized, muscular body now sports a couple of tattoos on one of his upper arms; thankfully it only slightly distracts from the sculptural acuity of his spatial movements, as Freeman moves his hand, then arms into space, bending, stretching, and finally, with the aid of water from his plastic thermos, sliding, surfing forward and backward on the floor, standing, and on his back. It is a tour de force reaching the audience with a visual solemnity akin to standing in a cathedral.

After Intermission Brenda Way revived Waving Not Drowning (A Guide to Elegance) (2010) possessing a joint French-English narrative regarding deportment de rigeur for French females. With Way’s capacity to nudge and mock both gently and visually, the company provided madcap movements and adornments, the women papering the men dressed a la mode.

The company now comprises, in addition to Smith, Freeman, Johnson and Schwab, Dennis Adams, Josie G. Sadan, Steffi Cheong, Jeremy Bannon Neches, Alec Guthrie, Allie Papazian.

In her introduction to the evening, Brenda Way said that they were looking forward to the company’s 50th season. In course of their planning, they wanted the audience to provide the names of works they particularly remember, a place for which was provided on one side of the program insert. For those of you who remember the early days of the company, do e-mail the titles of works which particularly stick in your mind. They will be welcome.

Finally, Carlos Carvajal spoke to Kimi Okada his pleasure and gratitude to ODC’s leadership for the remodeling of the theatre. “They could have left the theatre as it was, but instead, they had a vision of what it could be. They have my wholehearted admiration.”

Mine, too.

ODC Dances Downtown With Two Premieres

3 Apr

Friday March 20, the second of ODC’s annual spring Dances Downtown, K.T. Nelson choreographed one and collaborated with Brenda Way on the second.

In the personnel department I learned from publicist Mona Baroudi that Anne Zivolich had left the company to work for Apple. What a bite that takes in the company’s talent! However, ODC has gained Katherine Wells, and what treat it is
to see her dancing with an ensemble known to be generous and caring of its members.

K.T.’s Nelson’s work, Dead Reckoning, if you read the program notes, was about Nature and its vastness, starting with the ensemble being frenetic as only K.T. can assemble such chaotic activity, skillfully abetted by a commissioned score by Joan Jeanrenaud with percussion by PC Munoz. I am watching, scribbling in the dark, and it soon quieted down to seemingly unrelated single passages, then a pair, then a trio which often has not so much a triangular relationship, but an encounter, like the finale where a couple literally moves over the prone figure of one individual. Fight for survival, unawareness, the succession of life? It’s hard to tell as white petals, presumably snow, is dropped from a set of steps by a single figure and then a pair of figures, and finally a cascade from the flys.

Overall, as you probably have noticed, I paid a great deal of attention to the props and the setting. While dancing extremely well, it seemed that the dancers’ emotions got lost in the structure around them, Given the emotional
background was Nature, however, perhaps that’s a just assessment.

K.T.Nelson and Brenda Way collaborated on The Invention of Wings; it was supported by Matthew Antaky’s light and scenic design. There was a sound score by Olafur Arnalds, Ben Frost and Ben Juodvalkis. Apparently comissioned for Ai Weiwei’s Alcatraz Exhibit, the theme dealt with suppression, starting with the Yayoi Kambara’s disrobing, then wrapping herself and rolling in a strip of cloth after two writers filled a lengthy strip of paper from backstage to front with scribbles. It was torn up by two men, apparently censors. What followed was apparently a study in repression; but for all the devices and movements, I failed to register to my fairly common mind signs of mind and body control.

The ten dancers in the company were terrific, dancing full out, if I did miss some recognizable emotions. I also commend the tribute to Yayoi Kambara who leaves ODC this year to explore her own choreographic potential. While I may not comprehend choreographic manifestations, I applaud the class act ODC maintains when it comes to recognizing dancers and collaborators. Maybe some day the light will dawn for me under my private bodhi tree.

ODC’s Summer Sampler, August 11

16 Aug

ODC’s Summer Sampler, this single day, two performance event at ODC’s Theater on 17th Street in San Francisco also marked the farewell performances of Daniel Santos, the Philippine-born artist who is leaving the company after a decade of performance.  In the scale of the company’s performers Santos  has been a bona fide successor to the likes of  Kevin Ware, Robert Moses, Brian Fisher, Brandon “Private” Freeman.  To the eternal credit of Brenda Way and K. T. Nelson, they have  reveled in diversity of sizes, shapes and ethnicity that their work has attracted, along with the company practice of year-round salaries and health insurance.  And at the 4 p.m. performance, Santos danced evidence of the male lineage and contribution to this remarkable ensemble.

Premiered this spring K. T. Nelson’s Cut Out Guy with costumes from ODC’s wardrobe, lighting by Dave Robertson, and almost unendurable sound by Ben Frost, the five company men gave us a portrait of men tussling, sometimes friendly, sometimes menacing, all exploring limits, hoisting, hurtling against each other either frontally or from the back, raised on collective or a set of single shoulders.  The explosion, the projection of bodies was simultaneously exciting and alarming, yet the momentary resolution of Olympic like leaps was extraordinarily beautiful. Particularly riveting was the pas de deux between Daniel Santos and Jeremy Smith.  The other remarkable dances were Dennis Adams, Justin Andrews and Corey Brady.

After a brief pause, Brenda Way’s 2008 Unintended Consequences, lighted by Alexander V. Nichols, used music by Laurie Anderson and costumes designed by the choreographer.  The music  bothered  me and following the impact of the first work, I found myself dosing, so I can’t comment on its content.

Another pause before Parts I and II of Way’s 2006 Part Of A Longer Story with the men in white shirts and trousers and the women in Way’s varied costumes of black dancing to Mozart’s Clarinet in A Major, K. 622. This is one of Way’s most balletically inflected pieces, the men and women entering and exiting as a group singly and together, not tied to classical movements, but definitely reflecting the influence and structure.

It was Part II, the duet between Vaness Theissen and Daniel Santos, that capped the program with Brenda Way’s distinct  graciousness and style in honoring a colleague .  The next to the last performance of Santos with the company, it was ever so much more.  Rarely, rarely, rarely, have I seen relationship between a man and a woman so marvelously captured within a classically-based structure.  None of your multiple pirouettes or sustained promenades, if you please.  A few positions  might be considered first cousin to a fish dive in the way Theissen was caught in front, rather than Santos’ side or the gestures and the slow process to connection one sees in a balletic encounter.   Way’s style of joining them and the physical conversation between was a masterful connection of gesture and musical phrase; her contrast, asymmetrical to Mozart’s aural structure, conveyed so much of Santos’ full-hearted desire against Theissen’s appraising restraint.  Duet and dancers quite honestly moved me to tears.

Any two dancers wanting pas de deux with a challenge and a blessing to present for special occasions, get in touch with Brenda Way for permission to perform Part II of Part of a Longer Story.  They won’t ever regret it.