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Multiple Visions: Amy Seiwert's Sketch 5/Stirred

by Joanna G. Harris
July 18, 2015
ODC Theater
3153 17th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9834
Joanna G. Harris Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
Amy Seiwert brought three amazing pieces to the ODC Theater on Thursday July 16. There were "Traveling Alone" (2012), "Starting Over at the End"(2015), a collaboration with ODC's KT Nelson, and "Back To"(2015). All three works displayed the virtuosity of her company's nine dancers and new expressive dimensions for classical ballet.

"Traveling Alone" was an older piece, performed in pointe shoes and was the most conventional in terms of movement vocabulary. Dana Benton started as a soloist in a red tutu, challenging the stage space with explosive locomotion, turns and leaps. The company, ladies in white mini-tutus, then entered and executed several duets with changing partners. Sarah Griffen, James Gilmer and Liang Fu brought focus to the work with their trio. The score was by Max Richter.

The middle ballet, "Starting Over at the End" evolved as the two choreographers; Seiwert and Nelson "explored the theme of isolation." Seiwert was artist in residence at ODC for 5 weeks. The dancers were active in the process. Although Nelson's work is in modern dance and Seiwert's in ballet, the vocabularies meshed in this work.

Performed to Franz Schubert's songs: "An Die Nachtigall, Der Zwerg, Auf dem Wasser zu singen, Du Bist Die Ruh," the piece had a lyrical quality and more extended dynamic phrases than usually seen in short ballets. Again, Griffen and Gilmer shone, although all the dancers emerged with full artistry. Contemporary ballet now employs full use of the floor for balances, contact and other almost acrobatic feats. All of these added to the power of this ballet.

Sometimes, it is almost too much. So many sequences of complex movement follow one another, the viewer is caught unable to catch it all. As a mid-20th century trained dancer, this reviewer asks to follow a dynamic line without interruption and to make sense of ever changing arm and hand gestures. All that aside, "Starting Over…" is a marvelous piece.

As a charming finale, "Back To" was danced to folk songs by Gillan Welch and David Rawlings (with many witty and soulful lyrics) and was a tour de force involving both soulful and comidic behavior enlisting the use of a bench as prop on which the dancers stood, walked, rolled, balanced and were 'laid-out.' Pointe shoes were abandoned (for me, releasing the torso and upper body for more expression). The duets, especially between Brandon Freeman and James Gilmer, were extraordinary. Again, so many feats were presented so quickly that one hardly had time to take it all in. It left you breathless.

The remarkable dancers were: Sarah Griffen, Brandon Freeman, Rachel Furst, James Gilmer, Annali Rose, Danielle Bausinger, Liang Fu, Richard Walters and guest artist Dana Benton. The company will travel to NYC at the Joyce Theater August 15-16, 2015 and can be seen in San Francisco at the Trolley Dances, October 16-17, 2015. They well deserve to be seen over and over again.
Dancers James Gilmore and Brandon Freeman.

Dancers James Gilmore and Brandon Freeman.

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