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  • Writer's pictureJen Norris

Review: ODC/Dance Presents: Rachael Lincoln and Leslie Seiters Long Playing, ODC Theater, San Francisco February 16 – 18.

The ODC Theater looks like it is still in rehearsal mode. Bright fluorescent Post-it notes form a patchwork design on the rear brick-wall, dotting the black masking curtains and dancefloor edge.  Folding chairs, with clothing shoved haphazardly underneath, lend a dorm vibe, though the Post-its call to mind the office space of an easily distracted multi-tasker.  Two performers are fussing around with some newspaper, ignoring the entering patrons. This is how we first encounter Long Playing (2022), the latest duet from Rachael Lincoln and Leslie Seiters, long-time collaborators, with deep roots in the Bay Area contemporary dance scene.


Lincoln and Seiters, now middle aged, have been dancing together more than half their lives, lives which now involve families and careers 1,200 miles away from each other; and yet their dance partnership continues.  Their connection is strong. Likely few others understand the satisfaction of exploring the torque of a whirling arm and its effect on the depth of a knee bend just the way they do.


Long Playing offers an hour of quirky vignettes. Segments of pure dance yield to sections of performance art with both text and props added. All of it is abstract, inviting the viewer to imagine their own meaning or just revel in the physicality.   


Rachael Lincoln and Leslie Seiters, Long Playing promotion photo


The dancers interrogate the entire space over the course of an hour. The ledge along the backwall can be a seat, a hand support, or a perch for one’s feet.   The stage is divided into small human-scale zones with tape and props. Rarely are Lincoln and Seiters more than a body’s length away from one another. They perform in messy unisons, breaking out for solo sections, before renewing an interest in each other’s gestures.


Actions are embraced, repeated briefly and abandoned. Their movement style is well-grounded; no elegant leaping, performative spinning, or daring dashes for this duo.  As if taking inventory of themselves, they cover their faces, then slide their hands down their torsos, slapping their hips, before bending to glide their palms along their straight legs and rest them atop their feet.  They repeat the sequence, which allows us to feel it in our own bodies.


Their props include six-foot squares of upholstering fabric and a taped-together-newspaper tarp.  Both items are used to create tents and pouches, places to seek shelter, to hide or rest.  The paper is crinkling and fragile, and yet it survives the dancers’ repeated manipulation.  Their various paper tents call to mind kids playing with flashlights in backyard play-places, the unhoused seeking shelter along city streets, or campers who wish to live in nature.


Laying the fabric over the folding chairs, they construct a couch. Constantly testing norms, the performers tilt upside down into this makeshift furniture item.  Seated on the “couch,” they pull the fabric up around themselves, bunching close together in order to close it over their tightly folded forms. A foot sticks comically out the top, eliciting a group giggle before they burst forth once more for further antics.   


From under the couch, they draw green-rubber gloves and a pair of fur-trimmed winter hood-hats with long scarf-like ties. Indulging their child-like creativity, these common objects are repurposed for puppetry and general frivolity. With the hoods inverted in their laps, and their hands nested within, they guide curious tendril-like fingers upward, making a plant grow out of their improvised flower pots.  Pulling the hoods away from the ties one conjures a slingshot, another a lasso whirling overhead.


With hoods finally relegated to head-cover status, the women recite Deb Olin Unfurth’s poem, “Unlikable,” which begins, “She could see she was becoming a thoroughly unlikable person. Each time she opened her mouth she said something ugly, and whoever was nearby liked her a little less.” Married in their unlikability, Lincoln and Seiters stand with elbows linked, arms wrapped in front of themselves, awkwardly clutching an imaginary partner.


Working together they take the couch apart, stowing the chairs, and then folding and refolding the fabric into shapes while they each compulsively and impulsively recount a list of all their foibles, the ways in which they are less than perfect, the ways they are irritating to themselves and others. “I don’t like to be told what to do.” “I shriek.” “I don’t know when to stop.” “I’m unrealistic.” And my personal favorite, “I don’t prevent the facial expressions that should be prevented.”  In contrast they later offer a list of the attributes of an impossibly perfect woman, a selfless uber-carer, who excels at “deep listening” and meeting all her own needs without assistance.


The soundscore includes manmade mechanical sounds, as well as nature’s patter of bird calls and flowing water.  Culturally significant American songs including The Beatles’s “Because,” The Supremes’s “He Means the World to Me,” and Aretha Franklin’s “Save Me,” accompany the dance-based sections, breaking any tension, and reminding us that we are all just fine. 


As the artists arrange a dozen or so seats around the stage, a comforting female voice asks the audience if some might come and sit in them.  With the chairs filled, the voice leads us, stage and auditorium sitters alike, in a guided meditation.  We are prompted to close our eyes, lean forward, take deep breaths.  This has become an activity that many a Bay Area dance practitioner uses to open their performances or workshops.  Are they poking fun at this Northern California tradition or are they sharing a universal relaxation practice? 


The final tableau finds Lincoln and Seiters standing on the backwall ledge, nestled within the inverted V of the wall’s supporting I-beams. They work cooperatively to push a giant ball of newspaper upward, wedging it above their heads in a defiance of gravity.


The performance is both humorous and profound.  For me, in late middle-age, a wife, and a parent, the piece resonates most strongly as an exploration of expectations. I’m left contemplating the ways we, particularly as women, contort ourselves in an effort to match societal norms and meet the needs of those around us; a task we may find impossible without sacrificing our true selves.  It is joyful and freeing to witness Lincoln and Seiters sharing their authentic artistic selves. May this continuing game between them play on for many years to come.  


Review by Jen Norris, published February 18, 2024

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Production Credits:

ODC THEATER PRESENTS

Rachael Lincoln & Leslie Seiters: Long Playing

FEBRUARY 16-18, 2024

ODC THEATER

Made and Performed by: Rachael Lincoln and Leslie Seiters

Lighting Design Allen Willner

Stage Manager Mia Nucifero

Sound Design Leslie Seiters and Rachael Lincoln

Music

Because by The Beatles

Tennessee River Runs Low by The Secret Sisters

Means the World to Me by The Supremes

Red-Xing by Albert Mathias

 64º 49’ S 64º 02’ W by Douglas Quin

Save me (excerpts) by Aretha Franklin Sposa

Son Disprezzata by Antonio Vivaldi

I’m Not in Love by Kelsey Lu

Who Do You Think You Are by Spice Girls

Transform Forever by Holland Andrews

Text

 LIKEABLE by Deb Olin Unferth (originally published in Noon, issue 12)

“Bio” text inspired by many guiding voices.

 

 

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