Odyssey Theatre Ensemble’s ongoing Dance at the Odyssey series was established by founder/curator Barbara Mueller-Wittmann and associate artistic director Beth Hogan and is committed to creating new opportunities for contemporary dance artists. They have created West L.A.’s Odyssey Theatre as the go-to place to view contemporary dance. The series runs through July 23rd. The Odyssey is a gem of a venue with three theaters in its complex and a very welcoming Bar staff.
For Friday, July 14th, choreographer Corina Kinnear contemplated the concept of Time with the world premiere of ‘Lost Time’. Kinnear has an eye for form as we see the full ensemble enter the space at the same time. A large timer projected on the upstage wall appears with the opening strains of ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’ by Richard Strauss. This digital wall display begins its count down from 20:00 minutes, the numbers in vibrant red, causing one to wonder what event will transpire at this fateful time? From the outset we are reminded that Time is our most precious commodity and one that is little understood. To command 20:00 minutes of our finite lives is no small ask and Kinnear seems aware of this as she states, “our future time is not assured.” Some performers take great care to define their own space while others move frantically, much like humans going through their individual and diverse lives. Many of these styles were juxtaposed giving the impression that people experience their future worries and past memories differently. With frenetic music a female dancer, was moving absolutely to the beat and rhythm while the others were not; making her solo oddly amusing.
At one point each dancer acquired a clock face which they held while moving counterclockwise in a large circle. Could this have represented memory as the dancers became the positions on the clockface? Were they going against time, effectively rewinding it? But then a glance upwards and there it was, that glowing red-faced digital countdown marking just past the 10:00 minute mark. During this unwinding alarms suddenly went off disrupting the circular movement and breaking the flow of time that came before. Some performers interacted with dialogue and partnering movement while others became solitary and focused. A unison section at 3:15 minutes and counting raised our expectations of what was to come. This was followed by a series of tableaus at 1:00 minute. We had been titillated by the strains of ‘On the Beautiful Blue Danube’ by Johann Strauss and the end was getting near! At 0:04 the digital countdown stopped, and the ensemble looked up to the display. I know what you are thinking so, I asked one of the dancers afterward, ‘Why did the clock stop at 0:04?’ She merely shrugged her shoulders in the universal expression of “I don’t know.”
The performers were: Caroline Carton, Hyosun Choi, Alina Cutrono, Jessica Dunn, Mallory Fabian, Reshma Gajjar, Sean Greene, Roger Gonzales Hibner, Magnolia Machado, Marissa Harumi Moses, Haylee Nichele, Li Chang Rothermich, Genevieve Zande, Sadie Yarrington. Composer/Arrangement by Cardin Chung and Lighting by Katelan Braymer.
The second part of the evening was work by choreographer Hannah Millar and her Company “imprints rep.” The first piece was ‘Beginning is in the end’; an excerpt from imprints’ first full-length show, ‘Let Us Bleed, Then Heal’. This is Millar honoring “unseen forces that guide us through dark and difficult moments in life.” This dance was a beautiful exploration in the manipulation of a passive body. Two people dressed entirely in black with their heads and faces covered by black veils enter the space where a woman lies prone and unmoving on the ground. They nudge and prod her and then with no volition of her own, they move her throughout the space. What makes this trio so appealing is the smoothness of the partnering and the logic of the positions that the woman is put in as she is lifted, turned and twisted. It is almost as if her partners are gravity and physics made manifest in human form. We are told they are Guides, higher-selves or Angels who support us when we need it most. The seamless mechanics of the movement was most satisfying. Kudos to the dancers: Julia Gonzalez, Jordyn Maxfield and Lexi Maxfield.
The second piece on Millar’s program was a solo, ‘Everything up to now’ performed by Hannah Millar herself. This was obviously a very personal piece for the choreographer and one which illuminated where she is on her journey as an artist. To begin, Millar walks to center stage with her iphone in hand. She addresses the audience, and reads a prepared speech about her background and development as a dancer. We are told that she has always loved dancing and ballet but that she was unable to be a ballet dancer, so she decided to become a choreographer. She gives various reasons for this and then explains that her solo will be an amalgamation of her life’s experiences up to this point in her career. She finishes her speech puts her phone away and begins to improvise/explore her movement style as a solo.
The Odyssey Theatre is the perfect platform for this kind of exploratory work. The space is intimate and we lose no detail in the movement displayed. Yet, it may be for Ms. Millar that both the speech and the solo are saying the same thing. To give an outline and reason for your work before you actually perform it is redundant. Your choreography should speak for itself, and any in-depth life experience can be delivered via biography or program notes.
The third and final piece was ‘Boxed’, which “explores the many emotions associated with feeling trapped in a situation, relationship, or feeling” (Millar). This was a large, ensemble piece and very effective in the sense of the dancers belonging to the group via unison movement and then throwing off the tribal community and becoming individuals with personalized gestures and emotions. The partnering was very smooth and beautifully executed by Nao Aizawa, Lexi Amundarian, Margaret Canady, Halie Donabedian, Julia Gonzalez, Bailey Holladay, Jordyn Maxfield, Lexi Maxfield, Monica Moe, Ricardo Ramos, and Steven Vargas.
Dance at The Odyssey Theatre continues through July 23, 2023. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit their website.
Written by Brian Fretté for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Imprints Dance Company – Cast of Boxed by Hannah Millar – Photo by Tucker Maxfield