In the darkness, a lantern peeks out from the upstage curtain — Hyoin Jun is holding the light out in front of him, scouting ahead for a soft place to land. It’s the fourth weekend of Dance at the Odyssey’s winter offerings, this particular evening featuring Goblin Party USA’s Nomad.
Jun, Goblin Party USA’s co-artistic director, presented a slice-of-life solo at Electric Lodge last year, which to me feels like it may have been the beginnings of this evening-length work. To see it develop is exciting, full of delightful developments from what I last saw. He flows through a smooth and surprising array of levels, each movement clear and inventive. And when he finds his campsite, a moment of stillness and relief rings in the next scene.
Mizuki Sako and Tulsi Shah join Jun onstage, completing the nomadic tribe. The structures they build — not just with their camping equipment, but also with shared weight amongst their bodies — settle them into the space. They are tactile, skimming the ground and returning to their feet with little to no effort. Though the mimicking vocalizations they use do not quite land, the movement and embodiment grounds them effectively.
Sako is determined and absolutely steadfast as she investigates a camping chair in ways I never imagined possible. The trajectory with which she flows is hypnotizing — her intentions always clear, her arcs and pathways drawn with expansive curves. To accomplish this range after a lengthy group number and into another ensemble scene afterward, her energy always matching the room, is almost superhuman.
A fight scene with a dinosaur is executed almost entirely through sound, and it becomes clear that Jun as a choreographer is pulling from a vast range of influences. Perhaps my favorite moment of the night, an evocative visual uses a circle of small fans and red, orange, yellow scarves to build a fire, the score crackling in the background.
Jun is not only the choreographer/performer but also the composer and director, showing the breadth of his vision fully realized. His creativity with props and set work is impressive, daring to go where concert dance usually wouldn’t, pulling from outside the traditional canon and unafraid of humor, of levity. Stage management by Jestoni Dagdag and lighting by Maisie Crimmins helps to pull this off with confidence.
Jun also takes great care to exhaust all the ways the dancers can exhaust their props. That said, each scene goes just a bit longer than I would like, and I longed for pauses and holds in the choreography to better punctuate some of the ingenious moments he designed.
Tulsi Shah’s soft, velvety contact with the floor lulls us into night at the campsite, her strength stacking joints expertly and with ease. She resets the tone with thoughtful reverence, and the company is ready to start anew in the morning. She, Sako and Jun exhibit real trust in each other throughout the evening, their versatility shining through as they constantly check in, listening to each other and proceeding as a unit. It’s clear that among them, there is a well of knowledge that spans many, many types of movement. They transition in and out of difficult acrobatic feats incredibly well, weaving graceful artistic paths rather than contrived tricks. Their arc incorporates virtuosity, humor, musicality and a great deal of care.
Dance at the Odyssey continues through February 11th — don’t miss Azuki Umeda’s “how I became kinder, and kinder.”
For more information about Dance at the Odyssey and to purchase tickets, please visit their website.
Written by Celine Kiner for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Mizuki Sako (top), Hyoin Jun (center) and Tulsi Shah in Goblin Party USA’s Nomad – Photo by Charlie Kim.