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Friday, September 27, 2013

Bodytraffic: Animal Magnetism from L.A.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 8:59 AM

click to enlarge Photo of Bodytraffic in Kyle Abraham's Kollide by Christo Brock
  • Photo of Bodytraffic in Kyle Abraham's Kollide by Christo Brock

If there's one thing LA does particularly well, it's traffic, and its resident contemporary dance company Bodytraffic is no exception. Featuring dancers from as far as Spain and Trinidad, the six-year-old company is sharp as they come. Opening to a sold-out audience September 26 at ODC Theater, Bodytraffic presented a winning, well-balanced program of personable dancers and stunning works, including a preview by freshly belaureled MacArthur fellow Kyle Abraham. Without a doubt, this is one of the shows to catch this year.

click to enlarge Photo of Barak Marshall's And at midnight, the green bride floated through the village square by Christopher Duggen
  • Photo of Barak Marshall's And at midnight, the green bride floated through the village square by Christopher Duggen

Barak Marshall's And at midnight, the green bride floated through the village square, a 2012 work presented in abridged form, featured the entire company. Composed of theatrical vignettes that humorously address the relationships between men and women and the absurdity of marriage, the movements were gestural, the hands frequently held flat and angular near the face with a rapid stop-action impulse like a flipbook of snapshots.

Punctuated with spoken dialogues that sublimate courtship into debates on eating animals and unison group dances reminiscent of old school musical theater numbers, the piece especially shone in scenes that uncomfortably mingled the genders, such as a witty Cinderella-esque lineup of women variously deploying their wiles in front of an indifferent man before being piled like corpses, legs splayed, behind a bench. Despite their ostensibly subordinate role within the dance, the piece belonged to the women: disgruntled bachelorettes, stymied seductresses, future real housewives of Tel Aviv.

Abraham's new work Kollide was the most abstract piece on the bill, clothing the dancers in every shade of taupe, brown, and beige before a set of oblong marbled scrims. Contrasting sensual legato movements with explosive, whipped-out action, the piece exhibited hints of relationships that rapidly dissolved. The organizing concept seemed to be the unbalanced tension of love triangles, duets disrupted by a third party's jealousy, isolation, or, in the case of a sizzling solo danced by Bodytraffic co-artistic director Tina Finkelman Berkett, sheer animal magnetism. Kollide never stops, its circular movements and spirals tornado across the stage, marked by the powerful subtlety of the slight twitch of fingers, the familiar petits battements serrés of the White Swan pas de deux restored to its original febrile emotional import.

click to enlarge Photo of Richard Siegal's o2Joy by Christopher Duggen
  • Photo of Richard Siegal's o2Joy by Christopher Duggen

The program closed with Richard Siegal's delightful o2Joy, a toe-tapping crowd-pleaser set to American jazz standards that highlighted the individual quirks of dancers at ease and jubilant in their virtuosity. Particularly notable was the trio fronted by Cooper Neely lip-synching every scat of Ella Fitzgerald's All of Me, playful, funny, and, yes, joyous.

ODC Theater presents Bodytraffic at 8pm September 26-28 and 7pm September 29 at ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., S.F. Tickets are $20-35; call 415-863-9834 or click here

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Irene Hsiao

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