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Big instruments, cool dance in ‘Touch Bass’

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Dancers and musicians perform together onstage in “Touch Bass,” an unusual and invigorating piece by Risa Jaroslow and Lisa Mezzacappa at ODC Theater. (Courtesy Margo Moritz)
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Dancers and musicians unite in intriguing and inventive ways in “Touch Bass.”

The unusual and engaging concoction at ODC Theater is the creation of Bay Area choreographer Risa Jaroslow and composer Lisa Mezzacappa, who shares the stage with fellow bassists Eric Perney and Matt Small and lovely dancers Brendan Barthel, Tara McArthur and Lauren Simpson in the hour-long production.

The three large, acoustic instruments are seemingly characters in the evocative production, providing fascinating sights as well as sound.

At the outset, though, it’s quiet. Mezzacappa, who wrote the score to the world premiere, hands her bass to one of the dancers, who hands it back, and then they’re off.

The musicians, as much a part of the choreography as the dancers, twirl the basses, swing them a bit, then begin to play.

Sounds range from mournful and haunting to snappy rhythmic jazz; sometimes the bassists use their bows, sometimes they pluck, sometimes they improvise, on occasion they solo. And as the show’s title says, sometimes the dancers touch the basses.

All six performers — moving in interesting combinations and wearing cool costumes that look like deconstructed tuxedo tails — beautifully complement each other.

At one point the women dancers, McArthur and Simpson, are paired in a sexy, hip-undulating duet, but they also look great moving with Barthel.

Another segment has the dancers sitting on the floor, their backs to the audience as they face the musicians and hold up sheet music, which the bassists play.

Toward the end, three performers lie on the floor, with pillows under their heads, and the instruments on top. The others, sitting over them, work the strings, with their hands and sticks, creating plaintive sounds. It’s really a trip.

All in all, “Touch Bass” is an extraordinary showcase of Jaroslow and Mezzacappa’s creativity, and belief in the power of relationships.

REVIEW
Touch Bass
Presented by Risa Jaroslow & Dancers and Lisa Mezzacappa
Where: ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. April 28-29, 3 p.m. April 30
Tickets: $20 to $45
Contact: (415) 863-9834, www.odc.dance/tickets

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