Though he doesn't advertise it as such, Enrico Labayen's Labayen Dance/SF is one of the few ballet-based companies in the Bay Area with a truly diverse group of dancers, covering at least five ethnicities and ranging from ages 21 to well in the 40s. The reason for this general lack of diversity is not hard to guess: Ballet is an unforgiving technique that favors the young. However, though Labayen's work is founded on ballet technique, it first and foremost pays tribute to the emotions.
The troupe presents its Fall Season 2013 show at ODC Theater Sept. 12-15 with a brimming mixed bill, composed of works choreographed not only by Labayen but also by ballet-modern-bellydance fusion artist Anandha Ray, ballet-acroyogi extraordinaire Laura Bernasconi, and company artist Victor Talledos.
Comprising a large portion of the program, Labayen's work ranges from the environmentally aware Isadora Duncan award-winning revival en-GULF-ed to a biographical work on artist Frida Kahlo, to the sex-charged male solo Kiss My Arp, to the purely abstract Door Ajar.
Door Ajar, with its butch, no-nonsense energy features the company in attack formations. Moving like jackals on the hunt, the dancers move to Tan Dun's challenging score in stunning bottle-green costumes designed and sewn by company artist Ismael Acosta. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Daiane Lopes da Silva was a heartbreaking oil-sopped bird in en-GULF-ed, draped in and surrounded by a morass of garbage bags and unfurling her wiry limbs in defiance and defeat in a modern-day version of Fokine's Dying Swan.
The expressive Lopes da Silva also shone in Frida: Broken Column, in which she and statuesque Kahlo-doppelgänger Diane Mateo enacted a scene of burning-eyed obsession and internal struggle against background projections of Kahlo's paintings. Kiss My Arp, a premiere, featured Acosta as a muscular beast, a leather-strapped fetishist arching from the ground in heat.
The work by guest artists also demonstrated a healthy variety. Bernasconi's Nourishment, a duet with Acosta, was one of the evening's gems, exhibiting Bernasconi's pliant physique on the sturdy scaffold of Acosta's body with buoyant delight and a sweet touch of humor. Its counterpart, Hunger, a duet for Acosta and the nimble Will Couture, was equally acrobatic and demonstrated a tenderness between the men that did not lapse into sentimentality.
Talledos' Secrets Like These, a solo for Leda Pennell, operated under the premise that women, left to their own devices, strip off their outerwear and perform spicy chair dances for their own private pleasure. The kittenish Pennell danced the technically challenging choreography with relaxed ease. Ray's Anima Sana In Corpore Sano was an intense solo for Bernasconi, who strained against unseen forces, breathing audibly and contorting her exquisite torso as if possessed. However, the piece, presented as a "work-in-progress," was ultimately mysterious without greater context.
Labayen Dance/SF presents Fall Season 2013 Sept. 12-14 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 15 at 3 p.m. at ODC Theater, 351 Shotwell St., S.F. Tickets are $20-$25; click here.