Jo Tomalin

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Cal Performances Odc Dance 2 Amy Thompson E1508021794585

ODC/Dance: boulders and bones

Above: ODC/Dance performs boulders and bones Wednesday, October 11, 2017 in Zellerbach Hall. (credit: Amy Thompson)
ODC/Dance performs boulders and bones
Wednesday, October 11, 2017 in Zellerbach Hall.
(credit: Amy Thompson)

 Vibrant Sound & Imagery in boulders and bones!

A quote by Andy Goldsworthy projected on the large screen sets the tone “There will be an intense amount of activity in a confined space – stones, noise, dust, machines, hammers, hands – followed by stillness, then, when the creek floods, high drama.” And there is!

Boulders and bones is an intriguing one-hour contemporary dance piece choreographed by Brenda Way, ODC/Dance founder and artistic director, and KT Nelson, co-artistic director. Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy’s rock structures and pebble topographies, Goldsworthy is credited as landscape artist in this piece, which features huge images of him and his team completing Culvert Cairn, a beautiful rock hewn waterfall, in 2013.

The company of eleven dancers moves in a tall tower formation, balanced like a pyramid, then breaks off into small groups. They dance across the stage in unusual and interesting dynamic choreographic motifs, such as walking up and around each other in each other’s space. A beautiful duo is like a meditation. Then a large group does acrobatic balances while leaning against each other at uneven angles like patterns of rocks and boulders. As they lower each other to the floor they gently bump each other as if punctuating the space around them. The ensemble uses each other’s strength to slide and drag across the floor in rhythmic movement, like textured angular rolling rocks and sand filling the space in between.

There is an underlying structure, an order in which the exploratory and abstract qualities unfold and build. Just like any piece of art it is not necessary to translate every section, move or change of dynamic, but the rich visuals by RJ Mina complemented by fascinating light and scenic design by Alexander V. Nichols provides a feast of slow moving video and atmosphere that has such depth coupled with the movement. At times the dancers melt into the background and in other moments they extrapolate from the imagery becoming the elements like the powdery dust.

A driving force of this dynamic piece is the commissioned score by Cellist Zoë Keating, which she plays live. Regally perched in an innovative circular archway platform she is centre stage playing her cello. The music is vibrating and electronic, gentle and acerbic. It’s mysterious, haunting with expectation and exceptionally beautiful in the visceral bass tones. Some silences provide wonderful moments to focus on the movement and relationships.

The choreography also has a magnetic force pulling the dancers’ movement towards the ground rather than upward. This is evident when they do interesting low lifts with arms around the partner’s body raising one a little off the ground. There are quick changes of pace and direction as the dancers lean, kick, flick, roll in asymmetric motifs in ever changing combinations that are graceful to warrior like and always interesting. The latter part was more refined and reigned in – the elegant flow of water – it’s lyrical yet less compelling than the exciting visual storytelling that came before. Boulders and bones is a scenic treat driven by vibrant music and dance.

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Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance, Theatre & Physical Theatre Performances
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