For their collaboration at the ODC Theater, choreographers Maurya Kerr and Eric Garcia surrounded the performance space with rows of chairs. Entitled beloved comet falling up the evening’s three duets unfolded like a series of linked short stories, sharing just enough movement vocabulary to reference the other works while remaining three distinct pieces within the whole. The trajectory of the evening moves from minimalism to maximalism. Kerr choreographed the first piece. Kerr and Garcia created the second piece together melding her interest in the quotidian with his pageantry. Finally, Garcia put his showstopping skills to work in the final duet.
Alex Carrington and Chelsea Reichert, the hypnotic dancers in Kerr’s opening duet move in a slow and measured way. As they rise from the floor their movement feels other-worldly. I imagined them exploring a new planet. They extend their arms and legs with wrists and ankles flexed, reminiscent of a praying mantis. They move judiciously, rarely touching but always exploring the space in tandem. At first the weight of their heads initiates a backbend or side slump. Soon they center themselves standing erect. Balanced on both feet they whip an arm away from themselves and following the momentum of that arm as they spin into the space. First one dancer then the other. They test gravity with small vertical jumps, faces and chests focused at the ceiling. The piece draws to a close with Carrington and Reichert once again on the floor. Connected at the head, they crawl and roll without losing their cranial contact, swimming through space, as the lights fade.
Out of the darkness a pool of light grows in a corner. Alexander Diaz and Syd Franz are discovered. Clothed in peach boa-feathered hip-length coats over non-descript shorts with lots of leg in evidence, they step side-to-side in unison. They develop a rhythm to which they add finger snaps. This dynamic duo only has eyes for each other, moving into the space with a chest-to-chest competitive shimmy dance. They rise to their toes, breathing audibly. They hold and then release into a knee bounce before rising again. Becoming self-propelling rockets complete with self-made sound effects, they bounce, jump and spin. The energy builds, as they run together on the diagonal Franz leaping arms and legs akimbo into Diaz arms. The feather coats disguise the precision required to perform this running catch, over and over, in opposite corners of the stage. Later Diaz spins Franz across the floor on her back like a top or a pill bug. Their playful partnership is full of trust. This work concludes with the dancers in opposite corners on their bellies their arms reaching fruitlessly for each other. It is as if a force is drawing them apart. The haunting music fades leaving an empty stage.
The final couple, Gabriele Christian and Melissa Lewis Wong, are discovered in a spotlight high above the stage at the top of the unused seating platform. They are dressed in full exuberant drag with exaggerated green glitter eyes, sparkling red lips, and long fringed gloves. Jennifer Holliday’s rich voice fills the space as she belts out her signature Dreamgirls’ anthem And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going. Christian and Wong laugh hysterically with each other as they wend their way down the aisle to the stage. They clap, pant, shimmy and flap their arms like wings. They are leaping, twirling fabulous creatures. Their hands tremble as they reach to pull the other’s face to theirs. Stripped down to sparkling pink leotards and fishnets, Hollidays’s ballad resumes. Christian and Wong lip-synch with impressive energy, as the audience cheered wildly. As the lyrics “I’m not living without you” play they run athletically up the stairs. Silver glitter explodes around them accenting the final tableau.
Joel St. Julien’s original music supported the trajectory of the evening well. Beginning with a single low volume reverberant tone, the music built gradually in volume and complexity. The score for the second work had an expanded tonal range and faster tempo. A lovely moment occurs near the end of the drag piece. The stage is newly awash in pink light as the dancers remove their gowns. St. Julien adds a harp to the orchestration, making me feel as if we had arrived in heaven.
Photo credit Jen Norris at bows of beloved comet falling up Review by Jen Norris October 1, 2022 _________________________________
beloved comet falling up
At ODC Theater, San Francisco, CA 94110
Thursday - Saturdays, 9/29 – 10/1/22 at 8pm
A triptych of duets choreographed as a collaboration between Maurya Kerr and Eric Garcia. Featuring: Alex Carrington + Chelsea Reichert Alex Diaz + Syd Franz Gabriele Christian + Melissa Lewis Lighting Design: Del Medoff Original Music: Joel St. Julien
Costume Design Duet 1: Madear Slater
Costume Design Duet 2: Les B. Frank and Churro Nomi Costume Design Duet 3: Christine Crook
Duet 3 song/Lyrics: Wiley Naman Strasser and Brian Thorstenson
Dancers' GroupCA$H Grant, FACT/SF Production Support Grant, San Francisco Arts Commission, and support from the ODC Theater Rental Discount Initiative