ODC summer dance festival kicks off

At ODC Theater’s three-week summer festival, Bay Area dance trailblazers are mingling with cultural dance leaders and guest artists from across the nation in a showcase of contemporary and traditional works.

“Local Heroes/The Big Picture,” which opens today, is divided into three distinct programs featuring work by eight choreographers.

From Minneapolis-based choreographer Karen Sherman’s “Tiny Town” (an exploration of physical environment inspired by Midwestern landscapes) to Alex Ketley’s “Monument” (a tribute to a lost friend), the festival celebrates both local and national artists.

“Our festival is distinguished by the scope of the artists,” says Rob Bailis, director of ODC Theater. “I think they are much further apart across the program. We didn’t curate it for similarity, so you’re going to see a range of work. We’re just about the only festival this summer that’s going to be looking at national work and Bay Area work in the same context, and really showing how important Bay Area dance is nationally.”

“Local Heroes/The Big Picture” opens with a spotlight on visiting artists from SCUBA, ODC Theater’s national touring network for dance. Bailis describes the opening performances as “big visuals and theatrical in nature, almost like installation art.”

On the program is Philadelphia-based choreographer and director Kate Watson-Wallace’s “House,” a site-based installation piece that explores the space of an empty home and the memory of what used to be there.

Throughout the performance, the audience follows the dancers as they reenact the memory and the rituals of the people that once occupied the space, which fills the lobby of Project Artaud Theater.

“What was really important to me when making the piece was how close [the audience and performers] were and how intimate the situations became,” says Watson-Wallace. “It’s a different kind of dance — a different kind of performance when you’re that close. Culturally, I think we need that in our lives. We need to bring back that sense of intimacy, that sense of closeness and connection with each other.”

The second weekend of the program is local, spotlighting graduates of the ODC Artist-in-Residence program, which includes Yannis Adoniou, Manuelito Biag and Alex Ketley, whom Bailis calls “representative” of the future of Bay Area dance.

In the final week, Vishnu TattvaDas, Colette Eloi and Hearan Chang honor tradition — with a contemporary edge — performing dances from India, Haiti and Korea.

“I didn’t curate the piece topically at all,” says Bailis. “We’re asking questions about the cultural composition of our region and how that plays into the larger conversation of our country. This year, things are much more abstract. We’re dealing with dance and how dance is represented across the cultural fabric.”

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