ODC/Dance offered up a powerful performance at UAlbany's Performing Arts Center on Friday night. (Photo by RJ Muna)
There are so many things that make ODC/Dance special. Founder and Artistic Director Brenda Way embraces the visions of other dance makers to play with her fine ensemble of 10. Those dancers, all finely sculpted creatures that embody fierceness and beauty, are steeped into the artistry, helping us make metaphorical sense of this increasingly aggressive, fearful and complex world.
Unfortunately, ODC/Dance, based in San Francisco, has not been seen in the Capital Region for quite some time. Thus, it was with great pleasure to see their return at the University of Albany on Friday night in a program that reminded all why this nearly 50-year-old contemporary dance ensemble (that’s major longevity in the modern dance realm) continues to thrive.
Part of their appeal is a theme I saw repeated in the three of four works and in the premiere of a piece for 22 Skidmore College dance students. It’s the juxtaposition of a duo with an ensemble – emphasizing that even in our most intimate and shielded moments the world still hovers and influences.
This was amplified in an excerpt from “The Velocity of Winter,” the dance for the students. As choreographed by Way and guest choreographer Dexandro Montalvo during a two-week residency at the college, the piece was menacing. The dancers, as whipped up by an interloping conductor (Erika Pujic), became a storm that swirled around couples that were pulled together and torn apart. The power of all the dancers, all in black, upped the energy and gave the feeling of a murder of crows descending. It was powerful. The work can be viewed in full on Sunday at Skidmore.
Montalvo, who has worked in a variety of dance styles including ballet and pop music, obviously has a lot to say. His “Impulse” was my favorite on the bill. Four female dancers moved from one end of the stage to the next in a demanding displayed that showed off their strength, versatility and commanding presence. Set to a percussive score by Else and Miskate, they dominated and devoured the eye.
ODC/Dance also presented a sweet duet with Rachel Furst and Ryan Rouland Smith. Set to music by Teiji Ito and Steve Reich, the dance explored at once tentative and then full out conversation between a couple. Wearing tap shoes at the start, the two sent rhythmic signals to each other, until their courtship became full-on physical, no tap shoes needed. It was fun, nonstop and delightful.
Way’s “Triangulating Euclid” was beautiful. While mathematics was referenced, the dance to music by Shubert, felt like a spiritual journey with couples. In sheer white tops, they peacefully rotate around each other, sometimes upside down. It was serene and lovely – and perhaps a homage to the magical order numbers offered.
Finally, Way’s “Unintended Consequences: A Meditation,” to music by Laurie Anderson, brought the audience back to reality. The music spoke of the mundaneness of the world and how it can slip us into not seeing the subtle changes around us.
The dancers, dressed in green as if they were indoctrinated into an army, were oblivious to the changes as one man stands off to the side alone, disenfranchised. But Way helps us to see. Thanks to her, we will not be caught unaware.
"Dancing with the Stars" stars razzle-dazzled on Sunday night at Proctors in Schenectady.
Everyone knows the real stars in “Dancing with the Stars” are the professionals – those flashy, sometimes sharp, sometimes sensual dancers who dole out so much wit and sass that audience can’t help but be blinded by razzle-dazzle.
And eight of those stars – donning sequins, studs and sometimes very little -- were fully illuminated and fully intoxicating on Sunday night at Proctors.
The road show, the spin-off the long-running ABC series, hits the boards for a one-nighter that sent audiences screeching and swooning over their speedy salsas, breezy waltzes and stabbing tangos. These mavens of ballroom styles – everything from the samba to the fox trot – glided, swirled and hopped with ease and perfection. And they did it with so much style in costumes that dripped elegance and/or sex appeal that even those who think the show was kitschy can’t avert their eyes.
I’m not a fan of the show. But I myself was swept into the glitter and glitz, mainly because these dancers – as led by Emma Slater – were simply top-notch movers. They seamlessly blended styles in brief but breathy numbers set to everything from standards to disco to pop. The scenes from one snappy dance to the next were cut so quickly, there was not time to be bored. This crew -- for their stamina alone -- was impressive.
Slater was the headliner along with one of the 31st season’s actual “stars,” Gabby Windey. Like most the stars on “Dancing with the Stars,” she is not an A-listers. A quick Google search found that Windey appeared on “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” She was also a former Denver Bronco’s cheerleaders, who alone, looked cute and competent. In the arms of Alan Bersten, she floated across the floor.
But as soon as the real dancers gathered around her, there was no comparison – this group that included Brandon Armstrong, Sasha Farber, Gleb Savchenko and Britt Stewart, were versatile, flawless and most of all, humorously entertaining.
The standout was Alexis Warr who could do it all. She not only hit all the right moves in ballroom, but in modern dance and acrobatic. She was cast in number after number, clearly the show’s workhorse, performing flips, cartwheels and all the barefoot lyrical numbers that found her racing down smoky staircases in flowing gowns into the arms of smitten suitors.
Clearly “Dancing with the Stars” does not mind cliches. And neither does its doting fans, mostly women, who were rewarded with showers of streamers that rained down on them.
I didn’t mind either because the dancing was fine.