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  • Writer's pictureJen Norris

Review Rosanna Tavarez “Piece x Piece” & Bianca Cabrera “Fever Dreams”November 11-13, 22 ODC Theater

ODC Theater Presents’ 2022 Fall Season comes to a close this weekend, with a double bill of contemporary dance. Rosanna Tavarez and Bianca Cabrera’s program ran November 11 through 13.

First up is Los Angeles based choreographer Rosanna Tavarez’s Piece x Piece, a duet exploring her mother Lelia’s life in New York City, after immigrating from the Dominican Republic in 1972. Lelia works as a seamstress in the Big Apple’s sweatshops. Recorded snippets of her experiences play in support of the dancing

The sound score for Piece x Piece intersperses the thrumming of sewing machine treadles with the theme song and plot-summary of a fanciful Spanish-language telenovela, in which a Peruvian girl moves to a big city to make a living sewing and ends up marrying her true love.

Rosanna Tavarez & Hyosun Choi bowing after performing Piece X Piece

The statuesque Tavarez performs Piece with her La Dansa Dansa collaborator Hyosun Choi. Through movement they explore the contrasts between the American Dream of soap operas and the lived reality of an immigrant seamstress. As they drape themselves over their sewing tables, like the very fabric they should be working on, we feel the utter exhaustion of long hours. As they whip lengths of fabric down and grab more from the floor in one fluid motion, we feel the weight of the unrelenting and unreasonable workloads. Fear of being found without proper working papers is illustrated as the dancers cover their faces and peek cautiously around their fingers. Lelia’s voice recounts the traumatic tale of a young woman jumping to her death from a fourth-floor window in an effort to avoid an immigration raid.

Parenthood creates its own weight. Tavares uses the long front train of her skirt to ferry a sleeping Choi across the stage. They huddle, soothe and piggy-back ride together, a mother-daughter duo. A duet, to the Simplemente Maria telenovela theme song, oscillates between romantic innocent girl frivolity and moments of dramatic head-holding, quaking with frustration and disorientation.

Red light washes the theater’s brick side wall where we find Choi, trying desperately to climb up and out. Failing that, she totters on the ledge peering down for possible escape. But it isn’t all darkness; moments later a mirror ball’s starlight fills the room and we discover Tavarez in a gold downlight reaching skyward before sensually running her hand down her body. She performs a commanding solo to Thelma Houston’s disco anthem Don’t Leave Me This Way. She struts, and thrusts with abandon, her lion’s mane of hair arcing as she twirls. Underneath her assertive posing, there is still a strange edge, moments of awkwardness and perhaps doubt about fitting in.

Dressed in tailor’s paper coat-patterns, Tavarez and Choi perform a merengue, the dance of the Dominican Republic, with its cross steps, circling hips and steady rhythm. Soon the traditional dance begins to disintegrate, their movements become mincing as they skitter on their toes.

Stitching sounds swell as the lights fade. Our final image is of the dancers hunched under their sewing tables. With their backs pressed against the tabletops, they guide their wheeled tables offstage. The tables have become their shells.

Tavares and Choi are beautiful dancers, able to captivate an audience together or separately. Despite its personal topic, Piece X Piece felt a bit academic to me, the emotion more performative than heartfelt.

After a short intermission, Bianca Cabrera and her company Blind Tiger Society performed Fever Dream,s a psychedelic fantasy for a quartet of performers. This piece premiered in June in ODC’s Studio B. I gave it an enthusiastic review at that time. Much of what I loved, the animalistic, twisted-limbed movement, translated to the larger stage. I think some of the wildness was lost in translation, but, with additional technical resources, a new theatricality was gained.

Dressed in body hugging, day-glo, costumes, with complicated fringes and patterns, designed by Krystal Harfert, the dancers embody otherworldly creatures. I loved the moments when their beings transformed into pulsing monsters under the blacklight. Their faces painted in fluorescent war paint patterns adding to their unearthliness.

The cast of Cabrera's Fever Dreams take their bows photo J Norris

Cabrera’s creativity and daring are writ large in this nightmarish romp. Throughout Fever Dreams the dancers move in truly unusual ways. Their butts are above their heads as they crawl on their elbows. Their crotches face us as their legs split. They snarl and lick, their teeth gleaming. They writhe, a bundle of hands and feet whose origins are unclear. Disembodied legs wave above the stage like grasses in the wind. Standing on one’s head seems more common than standing on their feet. If they must use their feet to travel, then they will do so by pogoing across the floor. Their near constant movement and haunting lighting design of David Lynch, lend to the primordial effect.

Dancers Nico Maimon, Chelsea Mulholland and Nina Wu are to be commended for their athleticism, flexibility, and full commitment to another’s vision. Mulholland and Cabrera perform a sexy and violent duet. Connected at the pelvis, seemingly inseparable until Mulholland decides to dominate, thrusting Cabrera to the ground, spread-eagle under her torso. Maimon and Wu are conjoined twins connected by the soles of their feet. On their backs their legs extend into the air and then lower into crotch-to-crotch splits over and over. Moments later they are back-to-back still in full-splits it’s hard to picture how they got there despite it happening in front of us.

The joy of Cabrera’s Fever Dreams lies in its unpredictability and its performers’ balls-out creation and delivery of an eerie, fanciful vision. It provides a powerful counterpoint to the poignancy of Tavares’s maternal voyage. This program offered two distinct choreographic voices, though the pairing likely left fans of one puzzling over the other.

Review by Jen Norris November 14, 2022


Credits Rosanna Tavarez / LA DANSA DANSA Piece X Piece:

Choreographer: Rosanna Tavarez

Collaborator: Hyosun Choi

Dancers: Hyosun Choi and Rosanna Tavarez

Video Design: Robbie Shaw Lighting Design: Derek Jones

Sound Design: Justin Scheid with Rosanna Tavarez

Sound score: Rosanna Tavarez in conversation with her mother Lelia Tavarez, podcast summary of the classic telenovela “Simplemente Maria”, “Don’t Leave Me This Way” by Thelma Houston, “La Miseria” (“The Misery”) protest merengue song by Félix Lopez performed by Rafelito Martinez y Su Combo, “Simplement Maria” theme song

Costume Design: Jill Spector

Credits Bianca Cabrera/Blind Tiger Society Fever Dreams:

Direction and Choreography: Bianca Cabrera

Original Music: Ben Juodvalkis

Lyrics: Bianca Cabrera and Ben Juodvalkis

Vocals: Bianca Cabrera

Additional musical performance: Béla Marcello Cabrera Seeber

Costume Design: Krystal Harfert

Lighting Design: David Lynch

Performers: Bianca Cabrera, Nico Maimon, Chelsea Mulholland and Nina Wu

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