Imagine a beautiful dancer in the air, defying gravity, and then visualize a gloriously pregnant woman, carrying the weight with strength and grace no male athlete could duplicate. The twain, one would think, shall never meet: You go with gravity or against it.
True, some outstanding dancers returned to the stage with success after giving birth; locally and recently, examples include Joanna Berman, Tina LeBlanc, Kristin Long, Celia Fushille-Burke.
Yet ODC/Dance made history Friday night in Yerba Buena Center. When the curtain went up on the world premiere of KT Nelson’s "The Water Project," there was Kim Turosh’s lush "underwater" scene, a kelp forest with miles of Mylar, and the company’s 10 dancers slowly turning, "swimming," to Linda Bouchard’s "wet music" of loud drips and discreet gurgles. Then Yayoi Kambara appeared, moving well, soon engaging in a vigorous solo, in spite of the large prosthetic belly attached to her. Wait! That’s the real thing; she is eight months pregnant, and showing every bit of it.
Kambara made a strong impression, but it was difficult-to-impossible to focus on the piece itself.
Nelson’s other work on the program, "Stomp a Waltz," from last year, is more compact and straightforward, with greater impact, but a lack of crisp definition takes away from the experience in both pieces.
As for ODC’s signature, fun mixed with muscular vitality, in evidence for the 36th year, it was well supplied in two pieces by founder-director Brenda Way.
The opening piece, to a greatly compressed narration of "A Streetcar Named Desire," is eye-popping and knee-slapping. Way’s Hooker-Wainwright-Hendrix music-in-motion is as fresh and relevant as it was on first viewing, verily in the last century.
Way’s new work, "Book of Hours," opens with great freeze-frame movements, then goes on to make Meredith Monk sound good; that humming/scat singing actually make "sense" against Way’s dynamic, energetic choreography, engaging as ever, this time featuring a sense of something weirdly "tribal" and animalistic.