Wild Dancing Seeds Grassland in Abq.
In the dance beginnings of Grassland, performed by ODC Dance Company at Wild Dancing West! Friday, nine dancers clad in pale green and yellow, some wearing leotards, other briefs and lacy tops, cavort. Five men to four women, they hinge and unhinge; furl and stream out. The set is the projection of stalks on a scrim; the floor the black floor of the dance stage. There, the bodies and the light are the meeting of ineffable and material: strokes unto a vivid prairie, disharmony then union. Relation in space.
This dance company has been called “athletic” and that’s an understatement. The arcs into which the dancers propel one another end with the satisfying ka-thunk of feet , which touch, swipe and lift-off again. The dancers’ transitions are flawless, instantaneity held as a note. It turns exquisite, and fraught.
To read for narrative in the virtuosity of this green whirl is to deny yourself the delight and anxiety of transport. Who are these green beings so light, substantial, and deliberate? They come unglued into reckless freedoms, then one will pause, curling extension into contortion, violently head- and hand-shaking as if striving to break free of the pod. Burgeoning, evidently, requires expending energy. A field, becoming, does not rest. A broken butterfly falls, then is lofted into a space nearer sun, elongating every finger and toe. The dancer glides off held by partner wind.
The pairings in this terrific dance are non-parallel; six, three, four, five; not every bee finds a flower. This makes for a looser ecstasy – as in the sublime pairing of Daniel Santos and Yayoi Kambara, she taller, suppleness personified, he so astonishingly lithe, and then the small yet nervy Anne Zivolich, her curly hair piled up, her angularness spectacular.
ODC/Dance, is a San Francisco based troupe of 10 dancers led by artistic director/founder Brenda Way and co-artistic director KT Nelson (who choreographed Grassland). They have won lots of awards: Guggenheims, Rome prizes, nurtured Isadora Duncan finalists, and so on- and why is obvious after seeing the company perform.
Both co-artistic directors were in the audience – and Nelson explained that the three-dance program – including Unintended Consequences, score by Laurie Anderson (2008) and the final eldest dance, Investigating Grace (1999), both curated by Brenda Way – was selected for Wild Dancing West! in response to Marge Nesbit’s request for dance rooted in “place”.
Which places precisely are imaginal. What is so lovely in this modest performance space, is that these terrific dancers went directly engaged (with audience) as was required by the spatial intimacy. N4th Center’s stage appears shallow when waiting for the curtain to be rung back (scraping sound); then the dance stage is deep enough – but watching their changes in footwear to slippers to lace-ups by the third dance, you do consider the floor in ways you might not if seated in rafters at BAM . No problem. The revelation of these dancers is their balance, their thrust, their confidence in creation. (Jeremy Smith’s interpretive pirouette turns in the final dance: thrilling.)