Airy boulders …
San Francisco’s innovative contemporary dance company. ODC, is currently celebrating its new season at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts with two programs of new work by its Artistic Directors Brenda Way and KT Nelson and Associate Choreographer Kimi Okada.
The first program is a 70-minute collaborative and multimedia composition that takes its inspiration from the work of British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. Titled boulders and bones, the dance uses the artist’s imagery for its environment of photographic projections.
Goldsworthy is known for his large in situ nature works, using primarily stone. Carved granite blocks placed in spirals, slabs of slate stacked into precarious arches in the middle of the moors, feathers trimmed on one side and arranged in meandering patterns on dusky fallen leaves. All these are recognizably Goldsworthy.
The sculptures convey simple lines and curves that suggest casual, random natural events. They are anything but. This is made clear in the time-lapse movie of the artist’s piece, “Culvert Cairn,” that opens boulders and bones. The finished sculpture is of a Roman bridge-like structure built into the landscape with massive granite blocks, under which is seated a huge egg-shaped stone. The egg, which is taller than a man and assembled in three nesting pieces, is scored vertically with rough line cut in the stone. These vertical lines also appear on the underside of the bridge. It’s as if the egg has pulled away from the enclosing surfaces to form its own integrity.
While the film races through every motion of Goldsworthy’s crew of masons and hard-hatted construction guys as they work to complete his monumental sculpture, two dancers sit downstage left. One playing pick-up sticks with 18-inch lengths of wood, and the other building a structure like a house of cards from the sticks she is handed. It’s a slightly ironic comment on Goldsworthy’s process. But also an insightful comment on the human impulse to undo and redo.
… and solid bones
When the curtain opens, huge photographic projections of rock boulders fill the wide upstage screen. Just in front is a smaller screen with a circular opening; a different image of rocks is projected on this screen. Inside the smaller screen on a platform within a structure of black pipe formed into circular scaffolding, sits cellist and composer Zoë Keating.
Keating uses a foot-controlled laptop to loop, record and replay phrases from the cello. The music is electronic and meditative, suitable for the dance it accompanies. One of the engaging features of boulders and bones is that silence, music and dance exist in varying partnerships. Several of the solos are danced without music. And there is a long interlude about two-thirds the way through which is just the cellist playing.
These shifting sounds highlight features of the collaboration of dancers and musician. When the “a cappella” moments of dance occur, the silence is not only refreshing but also adds a different kind of seriousness to the dance. This was especially true for the long solo danced by lead dancer Anne Zivolich. Zivolich’s solo, near the end of the piece, put a different emphasis on movement. Rather than following the line or beat of the music, what seemed to direct Zivolich’s movement was the strength of her body against gravity. She moved when her body compelled her to move.
Two features were characteristic of the choreography. One looked at how we move when our bodies cluster. There was a lovely moment, when the dancers stood in a line at the edge of the stage. Starting from the right, a dancer moved into and clung to the next dancer to the left. This knot of two bodies moved on and into the next body, so that at the end all the dancers were gathered into a cluster of seemingly random limbs and torsos.
The other feature was the choreographer’s use of slow movement ending in stasis. It seems many choreographers these days prefer rapid, unceasing movement – a constant clamor of virtuosic steps. But like stretches of silence, the choreographers used slow movement into a casual unmoving position as moments of rest.
These perhaps are the lessons of boulders and bones.
Photo: Anne Zivolich (front) performs in boulders and bones with dancers (l to r) Joseph Hernandez, Yayoi Kambara, Corey Brady, Maggie Stack, Natasha Adorlee Johnson, Justin Andrews, Jeremy Smith, Josie G. Sadan, Dennis Adams
Photo: Marie-Pier Frigon