Sunday, November 8th, 2015 12:00 PM
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- In one sense, the dance had begun before the audience was fully seated. Saturday night in the Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square, two members of the ODC/Dance troupe appeared downstage at far right and began a deliberative process of arranging short sticks in patterns while the audience chattered noisily, seemingly unaware of what was transpiring.
ODC/Dance's "Boulders and Bones," premiered in 2014 and presented here on the DanceCleveland more › series, marked the dance company's first performance in northeast Ohio since they relocated from Oberlin to San Francisco in 1976. Founded five years before that by Brenda Way, the troupe went on to grow in the ensuing 44 years from a highly touted, university-based upstart to one of the country's leading exponents of modern dance.
The work is a multi-media production featuring choreography by Way and KT Nelson, a score for amplified cello and tape by Zoe Keating and videography by RJ Muna of a stonework installation by British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy called "Culvert Cairn."
Goldsworthy is known for his "temporary" works, pieces created in nature from natural materials at hand. Delicate and evanescent, they fall prey to time and the elements, the only record of their existence being photographs taken immediately upon completion. The intricate process finds its reflection in the stick play at the beginning of "Boulders and Bones." (A representative selection of Goldsworthy's temporal installations can be seen here.)
The construction of the more permanent "Culvert Cairn," however, was anything but delicate. Its assembly -- involving a team of construction specialists wielding masonry saws, bulldozers and cranes amid clouds of rock dust -- was depicted in time-lapse video by Muna as a prelude to the body of the dance.
Just as Goldsworthy's installations organize the space around them, so did the dancers move in "Boulders and Bones." Against a projected backdrop of a finished culvert wall (with a large circular cutout where a cairn would otherwise appear), ODC/Dance dancers enacted a series of scenes, like the movements of a suite, suggesting the construction of an edifice made entirely of stylized gesture, startling athleticism and sometimes aggressive interaction.
Cellist Erin Wang was onstage for the duration of the piece, ensconced within a circular framework that lit her dramatically and allowed the dancers to roll her to various locations on the stage. Her performance of Keating's evocative minimalist score was heroic, and drew an extra measure of audience acclaim at the end of the piece.
Way and Nelson have created a dance vocabulary that is both traditional and modern, with highly stylized gestures and a feeling for patterns of movement that are at once abstract and dynamically narrative. If the process of dance took the form of sentences, Way and Keating's text would be made of highly complex clauses, elaborately interrelated and packed with delightful neologisms.
Especially impressive was the furious dance leading to a sort of interlude at the halfway mark, in which groups of dancers drew together in a complex swirl of celebration, while a single dancer threaded rapidly through the web of movement, scattering white powder through the air, much like the stone dust created by the making of "Culvert Cairn."
Impressive, too, was the moment just before the final dance, in which a single female dancer performed, in silence, a long pas seul which seemed to impart a blessing on the completion of the dance's edifice. Then the video sprang back to sudden life with showers of golden rain while the company celebrated and coalesced into a final unison tableau: an explosion of white dust rendered golden by burnished lighting, flooding the stage like sunrise.
The Plain Dealer, Mark Satola
RELATED COMPANY: ODC/ Dance
Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015 12:00 PM
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Typically, in dance, the goal is the illusion of ease. No one wants to see a ballerina struggle.
Thus is Saturday's visit by ODC/Dance on the DanceCleveland series likely to turn heads. Instead of ease and fluidity, the company aims with "Boulders and Bones" to pay explicit homage to effort and complexity.
"There are many parts that are clearly not easy," said ODC (Oberlin Dance Collective) founder and artistic more › co-director Brenda Way, describing the work, an ode to the art of making art. "We're all about revealing the process."
No doubt she has plenty to reveal. When she founded ODC at Oberlin College, in 1971, she dedicated herself to collaboration and all the bumps, unpredictability and tension that come with it. Even today, 44 years later, at its home in San Francisco, her troupe still includes theater, visual art and writing.
Her brand of dance also remains distinct. Where older companies, especially in the 1970s, kept strict boundaries between genders, styles, and performers and audience, ODC has never observed such traditions.
"The arts environment and the political mood of the era, the combination was a base for a new way of looking at the world," Way recalled. "It all resonated and came together in a new way, and set a new idea for what dance could be."
No surprise, then, that "Boulders and Bones" is a collaborative effort. One of the company's most elaborate productions to date, the evening-length dance rests heavily on the work of British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, photographer RJ Muna and composer Zoe Keating. Goldsworthy, in particular, conceived the work's central image: a large stone in a creek bed.
"It was a bit of a surprise when he said it would last forever," said Way of the stone, noting the artist's longtime preference for materials that erode or disappear, in homage to the fleeting nature of life. "It's so literal, and we are so not literal."
After a short film summarizing Goldsworthy's carving project, the dancers in "Boulders and Bones" will proceed to act out, through Way's highly physical choreography, the creative process. With each section, the dancers will explore one phase of the cycle artists go through when developing and realizing new work with others. Among those phases: contemplation, inspiration, building and silence.
Cellist Erin Wang, meanwhile, will rove through space on a moving platform, regaling the dancers with music that waxes and wanes like the moon and the tides. An early review described Keating's score as "percussive, rhythmic and elegiac."
"It's a simple idea, writ large," Way explained. "The meaning accumulates. You feel the chaos of a work site."
In the end, Way said, viewers should come away from "Boulders and Bones" not only with striking images burned into their brains, but also with a sense of the inertia and practical obstacles artists must overcome when creating.
Put another way: By letting Cleveland see it sweat, ODC will do the entire artistic world a favor, and maybe even inspire a few new souls to play along.
"I want to share that enjoyment of the creative process," Way said. "I want people to gain a reverence for it, to see that it's complicated and social."
The Plain Dealer, Zachary Lewis
RELATED COMPANY: ODC/ Dance
Tuesday, October 13th, 2015 12:00 PM
"There's nothing ordinary about San Francisco's ODC/Dance."
– Allan Ulrich, San Francisco Chronicle
"You can't really look away, and why would you want to?"
– Janice Berman, former editor, Dance Magazine
DANCECleveland Presents Breathtaking ODC/Dance at the Ohio Theatre on November 7
Former Oberlin company returns to its roots with heralded work "boulders and bones" featuring live music and stunning visuals
CLEVELAND (September 11, 2015) – Hailed by The New York Times for more › their "expressive and technically complex work," San Francisco-based ODC/Dance returns to its Ohio roots as part of DANCECleveland's 60th anniversary season on Saturday, November 7 at 8:00 p.m. at the Ohio Theatre, co-presented with Playhouse Square.
The evening features the company's heralded multi-layered work boulders and bones, with live music by acclaimed avant-cellist Zoë Keating and stunning visuals by photographer RJ Muna.
"ODC/Dance was born at Oberlin College as the Oberlin Dance Collective, so we're thrilled to bring them back to help celebrate our 60th anniversary season," says DANCECleveland Executive Director Pam Young.
Tickets, starting at $25, can be purchased at www.DANCECleveland.org, by calling 216-241-6000, or at the Playhouse Square ticket office at 1501 Euclid Avenue in Cleveland.
Created by Artistic Director Brenda Way in 1971, ODC/Dance made the jump from Ohio to San Francisco in 1976 and transformed into a groundbreaking contemporary dance company that now travels across the globe to critical acclaim. Way, who trained under legendary choreographer George Balanchine, creates smart, exuberant and fearless works that push the boundaries of dance. ODC/Dance has "become more sophisticated without losing its humanistic principles and questioning spirit," says Dance Magazine.
Inspired by British sculptor, photographer and environmentalist Andy Goldsworthy, boulders and bones (2014) is set to a commissioned score by cellist Keating, who performs live on stage, with the bold choreography of Way and KT Nelson, touching on transformation in both art and nature. Muna's cinematic mise en scene, which uses time-lapse photography to trace the shifting light, changing landscape, and building process of Goldsworthy's installation, takes audiences through the chaos of the creative process to the clarity of realization. The San Francisco Chronicle hails boulders and bones as "breathtaking," "clever" and "thrillingly danced."
For more information on ODC/Dance and boulders and bones, visit:
www.odcdance.org and https://vimeo.com/92558693.
ELECTRONIC PHOTOS AVAILABLE FROM PAM BARR AT 216-932-5060 or firstname.lastname@example.org
DANCECleveland, a Cleveland, Ohio based non-profit, is one of a handful of presenters nationally that is dedicated solely to the presentation of modern and contemporary dance. The centerpiece of the organization's programming is its annual performance series. The performances are surrounded by an array of educational outreach events including artist-run master classes, residency programs, student matinees, pre-performance lectures and post-performance Q&A sessions, designed both to break artistic boundaries and provide community access to the dance aesthetic and dance luminaries that DANCECleveland brings to Northeast Ohio.
Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 12:00 PM
DANCECleveland and The University of Akron are strong and frequent collaborators. The two organizations–which will receive $5 million from Knight Foundation to fund the creation of the National Center for Choreography–teamed up to bring Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal to Akron, Ohio last week.
During a busy, weeklong residency at the university that culminated in a performance at the E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall on campus, company members from Les Ballets more › Jazz worked with dance students on ballet technique in a series of master classes. I had the chance to watch one such session for upper-level students, led by Ballet Master Cyrille de la Barre. He guided students through warm-up and stretch exercises at the barre that are much like those that the professional dancers do during company classes. He also showed them some center work that included dance phrases that were reminiscent of the full company. The inclusion of hand-played drums in place of the piano at times helped convey the sense of rhythmic movement that de la Barre was going for.
Cyrille de la Barre, ballet master of Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, instructing dance students from The University of Akron. Photo by Roger Durbin.
Aside from the academic context, the schedule included opportunities for company dancers to interact informally with students, such as during a meet-and-greet reception. Speaking with me via telephone prior to his visit, Louis Robitaille, artistic director of Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, said that he and his dancers would also meet with students over lunch, just to chat. The artistic director said he also intended to talk to students about his job as head of a company and what he looks for in a dancer.
Besides sessions organized around dance students, the company held its own classes and rehearsals for the concert performance. They are at work on something new, a duet, and full rehearsals of the piece continued while on campus.
To conclude a week with such a robust schedule, Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal had to perform. On Sunday, Oct. 4, the company presented three works: "Rouge" (2014), a commissioned work done to original music by brothers Sylvain and Dominique Grand and choreographed by Rodrigo Pederneiras; "Closer" (2006) by Benjamin Millepied, a short but lovely pas de deux that was gifted to Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal; and "Kosmos" (2015), a longer, 35-minute commissioned piece choreographed by Andonis Foniadakis.
Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal performing "Closer" by Benjamin Millepied. Photo courtesy of DANCECleveland.
"Kosmos," Robitaille said, is a "killer," for it requires a lot of stamina from the dancers. You can view a video clip of parts of "Kosmos" here to see how much the dancers rely on big, expansive movements–an influence that Robitaille says stems from his own days as a dancer. Given the thematic hustle-and-bustle of urban existence that is at the center of the work, this is a performance that calls for speed as much as grandeur. In the vivid words of reviewer Steve Sucato writing for Cleveland's Plain Dealer newspaper, the pace is "sadistically fast." (Sucato's assessment of the overall performance was that it "elicited euphoria.")
Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal has as a stated goal to "provoke emotions through contemporary dance." In response to a question about that, Robitaille commented that dance can be utterly expressive, for "dance has no language barrier." Even when a work is an abstract ballet–and Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal has several in its repertoire–it still can produce emotional reactions, he added. Mission accomplished.
Monday, October 5th, 2015 12:00 PM
AKRON, Ohio -- Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, dance's cool kids from up north with hairstyles to match, capped a week-long residency at the University of Akron with an exemplary triple-bill of contemporary ballet that elicited various states of euphoria.
Presented by DanceCleveland and school's dance program, the production Sunday at E.J. Thomas Hall opened with "Rouge," a 34-minute work from 2014 by Rodrigo Pederneiras, resident choreographer of the Brazilian more › dance theater troupe Grupo Corpo.
Set to an atmospheric original score by The Grand Brothers that conjured up images of indigenous tribes and rain forests, the choreography for "Rouge" employed a variation on the artist's signature movement language of foot stomps, hops and hip-sinking shuffles found in so many of Grupo Corpo's popular works like "21" and "Bach."
BJM's women costumed in Native American-style dresses adorned with Aztec-like symbols and its men in pants and armbands began to slowly move to the sounds of tribal chanting and nature sounds. Soon those sounds were replaced with the thundering of drums that sent the dancers cascading into a series of feet-shuffling and body-undulating movement phrases that were uniquely mesmerizing.
"Rouge's" best moment came in a sexually-charged duet between petite, red-haired dancer Celine Cassone and her partner Mark Francis Caserta. Lifted, pushed and pulled suggestively, Cassone was at once submissive and aggressive with Caserta, who oozed machismo in the rousing, animalistic duet.
The mood then shifted with Paris Opera director Benjamin Millepied's sublime "Closer" (2006). Set to composer Philip Glass' swirling "Mad Rush," the delicate 17-minute pas de deux performed by Cassone and Alexander Hille moved like a light breeze through a window, softly billowing curtain sheers on the way to kissing your face with soothing grace.
The adroitly danced pas de deux -- filled with cradled holds, fainting dips and supple back-bends -- drifted along with Glass's piano music and repeatedly built to crescendos, only to quiet and begin again.
The stirring program concluded with "Kosmos," a new work by rising star Andonis Foniadakis. The 35-minute work set to rumbling drum music by Julien Tarride was inspired by the frenetic bustle of daily life.
Performing at a sadistically fast pace, BJM's dancers blazed through fitful and relentless choreography dense with flailing arm movements, jumps, roundhouse kicks and falls. If the character Hilarion in classical ballet's "Giselle" were forced to dance to death in present time, it would surely look like this. The stamina-busting choreography was something to marvel at for its sheer creativity and exhilarating brilliance.
The final section of "Kosmos'" gave both the dancers and the audience a breather as the stage went momentarily dark only to be illuminated by a star field of white circles that covered it and the dancers. The troupe's dancers then slowly formed classical ballet group tableaus that could have represented the formation of constellations.
It had been a decade since BJM's last visit to Northeast Ohio. Let's hope it doesn't take another for this sensational globetrotting company to return.
The Plain Dealer, Steve Sucato
RELATED COMPANY: Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal