Review: Another promising opener for ODC/Dance Downtown

Sporting five world premieres, favorite works from the past and several new dancers, ODC/Dance Downtown is back with a vengeance.

The multiple-program, two-week season by the popular San Francisco troupe, which continues through March 30 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, promises true dance galore. Works range in mood from romantic to ironic, in subject from abstract to political, and in movement covering modern dance vocabulary and beyond.

Although ODC/Dance may not have pushed the envelope in the program on opening night Thursday, the company’s style remains fresh and bold.

In “Origins of Flight,” a premiere choreographed by Brenda Way, dancers revel in a wide range of movement — from a small wag of the finger to a full bend of the body. Through it all, they are light on their feet, sporting elegance and a certain old-world sensibility enhanced by the sound of a harpsichord.

Way’s other piece, “Unintended Consequences: A Meditation,” a world premiere commissioned by the Equal Justice Society, is in turn spunky, sexy and full of political innuendoes. Here, the often non-melodic music by Laurie Anderson, whose lyrics see modern American society through an ironic lens, sets the mood for the choreographer, who likes poking at the world.

Thursday’s opener also featured jewels from the company’s attic. KT Nelson’s vibrant”Walk Before Talk,” created in 1998 and not performed in the Bay Area since 2002, is not to be missed.

Set to music by Michael Nyman, the Academy Award-winning composer for “The Piano,” the work has the dazzle of an exotic folk dance, the energy of the can-can and the sweep of classical ballet. All are danced masterfully by the leading duo — Yayoi Kambara, famous for performing while pregnant, and the company’s strong new arrival, Jeremy Smith.

Other premieres this season are Nelson’s “A Walk in the Woods,” a full-company dance and the first in a two-part series about the intricacies of nature’s cycles; and “Hunting and Gathering,” a work for three set to electronic and world music by art-rock icons Brian Eno and David Byrne.

The season’s final premiere, Way’s “Life is a House,” which will be performed only at a family matinee March 29, is a collaboration with the San Francisco Girls Chorus. The group, which commissioned the work, will accompany the dancers with folk songs in a piece characterized by miniatures, described as “intimate snapshots imagined within different rooms of a house.”

Whatever your taste, ODC/Dance is popular for a reason — there is something for everyone.

IF YOU GO

ODC/Dance Downtown

When: 8 p.m. today, March 21-22 and 27-29; 6:30 p.m. March 20; 2 p.m. March 29-30

Where: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard St., San Francisco

Tickets: $10 to $40

Contact: (415) 978-2787 or www.odcdance.org

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