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  • Writer's pictureJen Norris

Review: ODC Presents…Pilot 74 REAL:FAKE March 2 – 3, 2024, Studio B ODC Commons, San Francisco, CA

ODC’s Pilot Program offers emerging and mid-career choreographers 3-months of residency and mentorship in choreography and self-production. Tonight, in ODC’s Studio B, we will see the culminating performance of the six dancemakers in Pilot 74. Since the program’s inception in 1990, more than 350 artists have benefited from ODC’s deep commitment to supporting all aspects of dance in community. 

Successful self-production involves much more than making a dance, thus ODC provides more comprehensive education covering many aspects of show production including marketing, ticketing, printed/digital program creation and more.  Just as ODC/Dance operates according to a collective structure, so too does the Pilot cohort, who share responsibility for mounting their shared performance which they aptly titled REAL:FAKE.   

It is inspiring to see new dancemakers find their voice.  On this evening, some dances make us laugh, one has speaking, some have props, half are duets, the other half are quintets. This group of creatives leans in to oddness; one piece has a bug person, another two worms. The soundscapes are more noise based than musical, only one has a recognizable lyric.  They aren’t fans of large unisons, but they do feel drawn to exploring how one body’s movement impacts another.

ODC Pilot 74 REAL:Fake artists bow from L to R: Amber Gott, Clairey Evangelho, Lily Gee, Amber Gott, Addison Norman, Raychel Hatch And Jenni Hong in Studio B.

Lily Gee’s Choose Left is a tongue-in-cheek send-up of the modern dance creation process, which had the audience in stiches when not wincing in recognition.  A quartet of dancers face each other, rolling their heads in unison, until a misplaced gesture causes one to dramatically lose her balance while verbally berating another. The Choreographer enters, smoothing the waters with a New Age ritual which begins as a meditation but ironically concludes with a purging group scream. The Choreographer teaches a short phrase to rehearse, and then gives increasingly enigmatic directions around the desired mood for each run-through with “sassy,” “confrontational,” and “heartbroken,” each earnestly attempted.

Ending a dance well is difficult and Gee gives us a good giggle as the ensemble cycles through possible finale poses. On the verbal prompt of “Love,” the quartet each form a letter of the word with their body. Eventually, they choose “Creation of Adam,” in which two dancers hold a third (the reaching figure of God), while the fourth, (Adam), positioned on the ground, extends their body pointing toward the trio.

Next up, Amber Gott’s fascinating and creepy Dollouse. No that’s not a typo, the piece features a discarded doll and an insect.

Acid green light creeps out from behind the back drape.  A doll, in a grey pinafore, portrayed by Gott herself, lies limply, neglected and misused. Her dirty bare feet poke up at right angles as tangled hair obscures her apple red cheeks.  Are we in a nightmarish nursery or has the doll been left outside, forgotten like the Velveteen Rabbit? A goggle-eyed insect (Abigail Hinson) intrudes, leaning forward to examine the toy, its segmented arms pulsing upward.  The doll rises crotch first, arms dangling jerkily behind.  The bug drags the doll under the curtain to her green world.  Episodically, they reappear for short scenes, one a tea party at which the insect drinks through its fingertips.

Finally, lying with their limbs in the air, bent at strange angles, the doll and the bug play dead.  Gott conjures a demented world, to which I would return, especially if it is revisited in a space with greater technical capabilities.

Raychel Hatch’s VOID is the most abstract work of the evening. Dancers wend through each other, unseeing but responsive to another’s touch.   Walking on the balls of their feet they gaze uncomfortably downward. One drives their head into another’s chest. A duo is often connected, wrist-to-wrist see-sawing back and forth with increasing vigor until the momentum splits them. Others draw arcs on the ground with shovel-shaped hands, creating voids?  In a void?  It is difficult to say, though distant echoey soundscape suggests a desolate world.

The audience uses the 10-minute program break to find a spot to sit on the floor around the studio’s perimeter for Addison Norman’s, It Stares Back at You, featuring performer collaborators Erin Coyne and Maya Moshin.  One woman crouches low to the ground, with arms pleadingly extended.  The other stands hunching forward, with hands resting above her knees. Discouraged, both look downward weightily. Their matching jumpsuits in opposing colors: one light (beige), the other dark (green), reinforce the idea of a duality of self, or alter egos in conversation.

The women are connected in a complicated way.  Throbs pass through the erect figure of the green one, created when her heels rise and knees bend together, the other’s hands twitch, in a matching pulse as she lounges on the floor.  Norman’s choreography uses the whole space well, as twirling arabesques take the dancers away from each other and magnetic gazes draw them together. A new calmness settles, when they finally touch, resting their heads on the other’s shoulder.

Clairey Evangelho’s Compostable Lovedreams created with collaborator and co-performer Anna Gichan is charming. A colorful tube, perhaps a child’s play tunnel, lies in a sun-dappled field.  The tube it seems is a rainbow hued worm, which comes to life in fits and starts, inching toward center stage.  The back part arches up, as the front slides forward, we are unsure how many people are inside.  The front lifts, swiveling its open tube head searchingly, drawing laughter.

The tube splits in two, and a playful human emerges. Excited to occupy a new form, they take long exploratory steps, delighting themselves with the discovery that poking one hip inward makes the opposite hip jut outward. Upbeat music and cartwheels welcome the birth of the second human. Smiling, they play, matching their curving deep plunging body rolls, and downward dog hand walking. Exemplifying the joy of having a body.   


The evening ends with Jenni Hong and performer/collaborators’ high-energy beast. It is wild, combative and unhinged as running from, or possessed by, a beast, the dancers dash, leap with arms flailing, and collide with audible impact.  Luis Isiordia and Raven Bautista face off, jumping and shimmying their flexing chests at one another hoping to intimidate. Katie Chapin, Elise Knudson and Danielle Nosa simmer at the edges ready to break out with speed and force when the time is right.  Combatants carry bodies with crooked protruding limbs atop their shoulders, before dumping them unceremoniously. In keeping with the unpredictability of the proceedings, near the end, Pilot Artist Jenni Hong and a partner, leave their theater seats to join the fray, contributing their own contact improv duet full of off-kilter lifts and whispers.

Keep your eyes peeled for these dance makers; my bet is many of them will be staging their own shows in just a few years.

Review by Jen Norris


Production credits:

ODC Presents…PILOT 74 REAL:FAKE                             

ODC Commons Studio B March 2 & 3, 2024

Lighting Design: Daniel Weiermann

Theater Technician: Chris Chamberlin-Miner

I.                 Choose Left

Pilot Artist: Lily Gee

Performers/Collaborators: Lily Gee, Natalie Junio-Thompson, Leila Massoudo, Zoe Mueller, Gabby Wei

Music: Score arrange by Alex Laferta Thompson. Samples: Entertnmnt by Oklou, Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler, Cho by Akshara Weave

II.               Dollouse

Pilot Artist: Amber Gott

Performers: Amber Gott, Abigail Hinson

Music: To the hands IV.ever ever ever by Caroline Shaw, Desert of Ice by Terry Riley Compiled by Amber Gott

III.              VOID

Pilot Artist: Raychel Hatch

Performers: Alex Foy, Raychel Hatch, Valerie Lam, Sebastian Le, And Serena Pcikett

Music: Emptyset, Lee Gamble

IV.              It Stares Back at You

Pilot Artist: Addison Norman

Performers/Collaborators: Erin Coyne, Maya Mohsin

Music: Milk & Honey #1 by Arcade Fire and Owen Pallett. With Me by Michael Wall. Sound Design Addison Norman

V.               Compostable Lovedreams

Pilot Artist: Clairey Evangelho

Performers/Collaborators: Clairey Evangelho and Anna Gichan (courtesy of AXIS Dance)

Music: Compostable Lovedreams Original So

VI.              beast

Pilot Artist: Jenni Hong

Performers/Collaborators: Raven Bautista, Katie Chapin, Luis Isiordia, Elise Knudson, Danielle Noda

Music: The Journey by Olafur Arnalds, My Little Airport, Complied by Jenni Hong

Costume: Danielle Noda


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