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'An Improvisation' muddles while McGuire's 'Solos' tax at ODC's Walking Distance Dance Festival

by Joanna G. Harris
May 20, 2018
ODC Theater
3153 17th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9834
San Francisco's ODC Theater is on the cutting-edge as a producer of new and unusual works. For their Walking Distance Dance Festival, the theater programmed workshops, a dance party and performances from a selection of dramatic artists. This was evident in the fetival's May 19 evening performances featuring Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener (dance), Phillip Greenlief (saxophone), Shoko Hikage (koto) Claudia La Rocco (text) in an “An Improvisation” and Belinda McGuire in "Solo Works".

In “An Improvisation” the five performers disparate talents demanded different levels of attention. That of sight and sound, interpretation and translation. Mitchell and Riener are well known to San Francisco and national audiences as former members of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. The two brilliant movers are capable of capturing one’s full attention since their skills, subtle and extended, were the strongest elements of the work. They both moved through the space, stayed in place and sometimes disappeared and reappeared creating surprise. As good as they were, this reviewer wished for more interaction in their duet.

Hikage’s koto playing was most consistent. She produced a subtle and beautiful sound that provided an underlying gentle energy to the work. Greenlief’s participation was more occasional. His was a charming, but incidental contribution. For this reviewer, the spoken words by New York Times' dance writer La Rocco were more disturbing than accompanying. Her tone was uniform throughout, her language repetitive, her images uninteresting. When she did interact with the dancers, there were moments of humor. Sometimes too many scores are one too many.

Belinda McGuire - "Solo Works"

Belinda McGuire is a powerful dancer whose energy bursts across the stage and hits the audience with her explosive gestures and phrases. She is technically in peak form and is fascinating to watch. What she is doing with her solo choreographic works said to synthesizes dance, theater and circus however is not clear. First of all there is too much. The works go on and on making one feel as if they are drown in her vocabulary. It therefore becomes difficult for the viewer to collect and bring the dancing into focus.

Her solo "The Eight Propositions" was created collaboratively with Emio Greco, McGuire and Pieter C. Scholten via ICKamsterdam. What were they? Another solo “Anthem for the Living,” by choreographer Sharon Moore involved the use of ropes and suggested suicide as a dramatic study. Ms McGuire’s costumes, made of see-through material does help to demand the audience's attention to her every move. Katherine Mallinson is credited with costume design.
Belinda McGuire.

Belinda McGuire.

Photo © & courtesy of Jubal Battiste


Belinda McGuire.

Belinda McGuire.

Photo © & courtesy of Jubal Battiste


Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener.

Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener.

Photo © & courtesy of Amitava Sharkar

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