Live review | Other Dance Festival 2011: Week 4

Ayako Kato in Dear BACH

Ayako Kato in Dear BACH Photograph: Yuriko Ohkubo

The last was perhaps the most cohesive of the [node:14911351 link=Other Dance Festival;]’s four unique programs in the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse although, [node:14947301 link=as I’ve said before;], I don’t expect neat themes and similarities from the Other—much of the fun is its wild variety.

The five works were all similar in length and short. Each had a small cast; the biggest piece was a trio. Two were to live music and three had original scores (four if you count Supergirl, whose soundtrack was mostly a fragmented monologue). Each chose one central investigation and dove deeply into it.

If the other three weeks of ODF were potlucks, Week 4 was an intimate tasting menu.

More filling than an amuse-bouche but certainly whimsical, Supergirl combined the sure direction of [node:166277 link=Joe Goode Performance Group;] alum [node:70917 link=Liz Burritt;] with the clear, confident delivery of [node:73858 link=Margi Cole;] (who should host a seminar for dancers on how to speak onstage). Cole entered from stage right wearing a pale pink turban, over-the-top dressing gown and faux fur–trimmed slippers, looking like Meryl Streep’s Madeline Ashton (before the potion). Cole’s words skewed toward self-doubt (“I want to succeed but what am I supposed to be doing?”) until the robe came off, revealing a black-and-silver superhero outfit replete with tiny cape and bandit mask (by Jeff Hancock). Her karate chops, somersaults and gracefully awkward kicks conquered the stage as well as her doubt and were punctuated with goofball sound effects.

Carved from a roast—Shirley Mordine’s complete, full-company LifeSpeak, [node:14744641 link=which premiered last May;]—a duet for Adriana Durant and Atalee Judy proved a choice cut. It also included confessional text, albeit pre-recorded and manipulated into Shawn Decker’s quietly restless electronic nocturne. “Are you…” and “you are…” played musical chairs. The dancers wound up and unwound their limbs. Each tried to exit only to be pulled back in. One moved to assist the other only to become her obstacle.

The entrée of the evening was undoubtedly it, dancer Ayako Kato’s duet with musician Jason Roebke, both virtuoso technicians and ravenous experimentalists. Roebke thwacked and smacked the strings of his double bass before drawing his bow across the instrument’s tailpiece and adding analog squeals from a little box with dials. Kato, while tiny, devoured the stage with actions of all sorts of qualities and sizes. She has an immensely colorful imagination for movement, linked directly to her breath, and two of the most expressive hands in Chicago. (In fact, as if hoping to share the spotlight with their performance, the city itself provided a loud jet’s overhead pass and rain falling on the rooftop that eased the piece into its end.)

Jonathan Meyer’s Whither, a one-off duet with composer Christopher Preissing, was a salad of leaves torn off of other work, a sort of étude in [node:14923121 link=Meyer’s continuing self-excavation;]. Like his Whence, which just closed, different areas of the stage were given palpable qualities by a combination of movement textures and vivid soundscapes. Downstage right was the plainly lit “door” to his journey. Upstage center was his “encounter” with a beast in a dungeon. Downstage left found him “climbing” back out to meet us, with a sudden smile and short bow marking the end of the work. Preissing conjured near-visible sounds from his flute, a laptop and other mysterious tools. Their fertile partnership continues to excite.

Cindy Brandle Dance Company, [node:81970 link=whose namesake relocated to Colorado last year;], revived Thrown, a trio from 2003 to an angsty song by Proyecto Mirage. It was well-executed by Brandle, ever-stronger local Mindy Meyers, and another ex-Chicagoan back for a visit, festival cofounder Elizabeth Lentz. Although a moody piece featuring body-tossing like its title suggests, its composition was familiar, tidy and went down easy, providing an ending akin to a classic slice of chocolate cake.

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