The Plain Dealer, Mark Satola | November 08, 2015
ODC/Dance leaves long-lasting glowing impression on DanceCleveland audience (review)
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 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.