Tag Archives: Jeremy Smith

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This succession gives the audience a quick historical references as the other company members appear with similar reference points.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’s Program B, YBC, March 23, with a Conversation

15 May

Three works, Two If by Sea; Unintended Consequences: A Meditation; Triangulating Euclid

ODC’s three amazing Fates/Graces – call them what you will – have intriguing visions of the world around us, in addition to admirable practices and accomplishments. This trilogy manifests part of the evidence; the post-performance conversation allowed me to congratulate myself that I discerned at least 50% of their choreographic intentions. I am certain readers can appreciate that fleeting sense of satisfaction – “I got it!” What lingers six weeks later, induced by domestic necessities, let me say that I write with what I remember, and the fact I do remember says something about what impressed me.

Last summer Kimi Okada presented the evolving Two If by Sea to honor Vanessa Thiessen’s retirement from ODC’s ensemble, in a single night performance at the ODC Gallery. Natasha Adorlee Johnson assumed Thiessen’s role with Jeremy Smith in this tap-dance informed, Morse Code introduction of heterosexual intimacy and its dealings with the wider world. What a treat, a work which could and should be a perennial in ODC’s performing repertoire.

The couple starts in chairs on opposite sides of the stage, down front for the female, upstage left for the male. They tap out rhythmic questions in Morse Code, the girl responding more quickly, ready to move her chair, but the guy also moves forward in response. They continue, standing, the woman’s body more eloquently bent. Then the chairs are moved upstage right and entwining legs and proprietary arm movements ensue. When they rise the movements expand, some lateral grand jetes startle with sideways thrust from little apparent preparation. The state of coupledom was established as the movement shifts from establishing connection to fending off unknown intrusions, bringing the piece to its finish, the twosome surviving.

Seeing A Meditation:Triangulating Euclid for the third time, I think I begin to get it The company dances in black, the women in tights and a torso tunic of minimal proportions, each slightly different. The first section is clearly individual, geometric; then it moves into formulae meeting, not always serenely- actually with a fair amount of tussle; then the resolution slowly dissipates the figures. It’s a handsome work, one to gain something from at each viewing. I hope it is periodically revived.

Finishing these comments as tardily as I have, I regret to say Unintended Consequences does not linger in my mind in a manner like the other two on the program.

ODC’s Dancing Downtown, 2013

17 Apr

How much of a miracle, modern day or historical, is comprised of small acts strung together over time and with diligent devotion.  And can devotion be considered such without diligence or can diligence be exercised without devotion?  The two D’s are like the snakes intertwined on the physician’s symbol, and I have long believed that healing is part of art’s task in life, with the practitioners the vessel through which healing and celebration occurs.  The Greeks understood this when they placed their amphitheaters in locations where healing centers were also situated, a fact thrilling the spirit walking in such a setting.

I think about such notions when I regard ODC and its three Graces/Fates who steered the Mission-based enterprise first into its own building, then built a multi – disciplinary dance center called The Dance Commons before launching into a major overhaul of the original building now into its third (?) season of presenting  divergent, interesting works, dance and otherwise.

Brenda Way, K.T. Nelson and Kimi Okada are the women behind this practical, impossibly wonderful reality, I believe unique in this country’s performing arts history.  Lilian Baylis and Ninette de Valois were responsible for a similar collaboration in an historic setting in London, and Marie Rambert pioneered in a separate location, but really, that’s stretching it some.  Beyond this, San Francisco’s trio has reflected and utilized our mores over the past three or four decades in ways amazing to this viewer whose mentality still trudges along dusty country roads.

ODC’s mid-March opening at Yerba Buena’s Lam Research Theater included a repeat of K.T. Nelson’s Transit: Next Stop with Max Chen’s clever bicycle bench, a moving panorama conveying urban life in its many manifestations with new costumes by Banana Republic.  I saw this Nelson work twice, although I wished my schedule permitted me to see another performance of Cut-Out Guy, the marvelous work earning Nelson, deservedly, one of two awards given by the Isadora Duncan Dance Award Committee for choreography during the 2011-2012 performing season.  For the opening this shared the bill with Brenda Way’s Lifesaving Maneuvers.  Forgive me if it takes at least two viewings in many instances  “to get” a work and so abstain from much comment.

This time, Banana Republic’s costumes exuded a current urban casual air where the incredible Anne  Zivolich danced an entry of indeterminate naivety and feisty independence.  In the background Corey Brady supped morning coffee and exchanged the morning newspaper with Natasha Adorlee Johnson.  Outside this cubicle Yayoi Kambara was locked in an embrace with either Jeremy Smith or Justin Andrews. Justin Liu and perhaps Dennis Adams were fated to meet and work out a mutual destiny of tenderness and conflict, not unlike the other characters sketched in the piece.  There needed to be another man because Vanessa Thiessen maneuvered over that movable cycle bench towards a man, the methodology, impulses and retreats a wonder to behold. The season before she and Daniel Santos were paired in this memorable sequence.

Triangulating Euclid was the result of a trilogy of collaborators: K. T. Nelson, Brenda Way and Kate Weare.  The work was dedicated to Karen Zukor who restored an early version of this book, the history of which was recited at the beginning of the piece. Zukor is a paper conservator working in the East Bay whom I once consulted and we talked about the stores the Zukors once operated in Central Valley towns in the mid-‘Thirties, notably for me in Fresno.  Zukor’s studio house an Art Deco remnant from that building which featured primarily clothing for Depression-era working women folk.

Matt Antaky built and lighted a spare, spacious set emphasizing white against which Way and Lisa Claybaugh’s costumes of black and white moved in harmony,their simple geometric designs housing dancers first moving singly before gradually becoming clusters, circles and diagonals.  I need to see the work again, but my memory says it is the least idiosyncratic choreography yet from these choreographers.  The divergence, perhaps, is due less to their fertile vocabularies  than to the subject matter celebrated. In Euclid there seems little space allowed for personal quirks and the movement spoke to that truth.

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.