Review: JAD Experience, Ouroboros, Tara Firma Farm, Petaluma, July 14, 2023
Updated: Jul 20
When Julia Adam is making a dance, it’s a fairly good bet that the ninety-minute drive to the country will be worth the trip, and thus I set off for Tara Firma Farm in Petaluma on a warm mid-July evening. Adam and I both arrived in San Francisco in 1988 to pursue our careers, she as a ballet dancer and nascent choreographer, me as a lighting designer and later as a venue manager. Her choreography captured my attention from the beginning, standing out for its wit. Ballet can be overly serious, so Adam’s quirkiness and unique phrasing provided a freshness to the stage.
In July 2014, a friend invited me to the inaugural JAD Experience (then Julia Adam Dance) at the historic Brock Schreiber Boathouse along Tomales Bay in the Point Reyes National Seashore. The event featured a farm-to-table meal served family style for one hundred guests, followed by a ballet. It was a magical evening, which concluded with the dancers framed breathtakingly in the open end of the boathouse, as fog swept in over the water, as if on cue.
Sharing great food with interesting tablemates, followed by dance inspired by our natural surroundings is exhilarating and addictive. Wither Adam and her husband, producer, rancher and agricultural activist, Aaron Lucich, go, go I, into the woods, to the shore, and now up into the hills. Along the way I’ve made personal connections, developed an appreciation for flavorful sustainable locally-grown produce, and seen some outstanding original choreography.
JAD Experience guests enjoying family style meal with seating risers in distance to the right; Photo: J. Norris
Adam is an innate storyteller. I’m attracted to the way she is able to make dances full of emotion and accessible to an unpracticed audience. In chatting with dinner companions, I know that for many, JAD Experience is the only dance they see in a given year.
On this evening I chatted with Kristi, a guest who confesses that she used to come for the food, then for the setting, but that now, it is the dance she most anticipates. She effuses about how last summer’s Resilience was the perfect COVID response, revealing the myriad ways people supported each other.
The golden hills of the farm are fading to grey as the audience takes its seats, on risers facing a raised dance floor upon which sits a single ballet barre. A sextet of dancers, costumed in white dancewear, bop joyfully across the stage to the jazzy horns of “As the Saints Come Marching In.”
When a stately Baroque melody intrudes, they launch into a choreographed series of knee bends with tilted bodies, perhaps making light of classical ballet’s strange conventions and movement vocabulary. Company class at the barre invites further frivolity as a trio of the dancers on one side of the barre duck under to join the other three, leaving all comically sandwiched along the barre, arms raised. Some raucous partnering follows with women riding on the men’s backs and lifts that dangle a colleague’s head teasingly close to the floor.
Dressed in black street clothes, dancer Oliver Halkowich enters the fray; tonight, is his night. Program notes tell us Halkowich has been Adam’s muse since he was a student at the San Francisco Ballet School. This summer marks his retirement from the stage after a long career with Houston Ballet and JAD Experience.
Adam’s Ouroboros outlines the stages of life, particularly, but not exclusively, those of a dancer. The arc of the piece follows Halkowich and his castmates from neckerchiefed-childhood with its leapfrogging and playfighting, through the emotional roller-coaster of adolescence and its sporty demands, to a world of adult concerns, with competing relationships and career responsibilities.
Oliver Halkowich center in black, with JAD Experience performing Julia Adam's Ouroboros at Tara Firma Farms. Photo; Sandy Lee
Halkowich is embraced and then rejected by a round robin of men and women, their waltzes and altercations cycling faster and faster. Adam gives each performer a signature shape. One dancer sashays with her arm draped over her head, while another’s crosses his chest, his hand resting on his opposite shoulder. The contemporary choreography from the opening returns with an electronic club beat. Now hips jut and torsos bounce as Fred Again sings “all these things that we took for granted, we've lost dancing.”
Adam injects cartoonish-stooped postures to remind us how our bodies often creak and fail well before our minds. One dancer’s deep plie falls into the splits, others hunch and melt over each other, walking in podded pairs. As time flies, Halkowich, martini-glass in-hand, rants, circling the stage, echoing the lyrics with a building aggression, before settling into a winsome and contemplative soft shoe for a time. Twice he is found hanging sloth-like under the barre, his crossed ankles and fisted hands allowing him to literally cling to this symbol of his professional dance career.
The ying and the yang, the bright spots and the dark ones, the full circle nature of life is everywhere in Ouroborus, and no more so than in the final duet between Halkowich and Zoe Lucich, Adam and Aaron Lucich’s daughter. Perhaps Zoe stands in for her mother, as she pushes Halkowich away, but then tenderly touches his face, before burrowing against his chest.
JAD patrons have watched Zoe Lucich come into her own as an artist in annual featured roles in her mother’s work. A newly minted Houston Ballet dancer, she is set to fill the void Halkowich’s retirement creates. Adam leaves us contemplating how what goes around comes around, and in the end we have only each other and a chance to dance together for a time, so let’s not miss the fun by taking it all too seriously.
Review by Jen Norris, published July 17, 2023
Ouroboros - Ou Vas-tu Olivier?
Choreography by Julia Adam
Music by Corelli, Sheldrake, Peirani and Parisian, Piaf, Fred Again, Reed and Milton Black
Costume Design by Milton Dunn
Lighting Design by Elise Clark
Set Design by Aaron Lucich
Dancers: Oliver Halkowich, Skyler Campbell, Jackie Oakley, Fernando Martin-Gullens, Mattia Teora, Iris Rosia Davila and Zoe Lucich
JAD Experience Presents REGENERARE’ Immersive cultural experience blends art, food and nature in the beautiful rolling hills of Petaluma July 7 – 9; July 14 – 16 at Tara Firma Farms
WHAT: JAD Experience presents REGENERARE’ The tenth installment of the renowned series that immerses the audience in a new cultural experience for all the senses.
WHERE: Tara Firma Farms, 3796 I Street, Petaluma See website for directions
WHEN: July 7 – 9; July 14 – 16; 5:30 pm – 10pm TICKETS: The all-inclusive tickets are $200 Fridays & Sundays, $250 Saturdays and are available at JADExperience.com