BODYTRAFFIC, however suggestive the word sounds, does not refer to the illegal kidnapping and transport of sex slaves; it’s the name of a dance company on tour. The small Los Angeles-based repertory troupe, led by co-founders and directors Lillian Rose Barbeito and Tina Finkelmann Berkett, performed a program that included two Bay Area premiere’s and the preview of a work-in-progress at ODC Theater.
The opening piece by Israeli choreographer Barak Marshall, And at midnight, the green bride floated through the village square…, is a collage of Chagall paintings come to life – images of village life evoked through Yiddish, Ladino and Yemenite love songs, gestural movement, and spoken word laced with delicious double entendres. It relates to Bronislava Nijinska’s Les Noces in the same way that Paul Taylor’s Company B does to Kurt Jooss’s The Green Table. Taylor crafted his vintage WWII dance to perky music sung by the Andrews Sisters, with underlying hints of the dark side of war, while Jooss left unvarnished the brutal truth about the effects of war. Here, And at midnight offers a black comedy of the travails of women and the men they deal with in a traditional Jewish shtetl that is in sharp contrast to Nijinska’s somber view of Russian peasant marriage rituals. The choreography is perfectly in tune with the setting through the use of weighted footwork and unison dancing to reflect life in a village. The steps flow with the music, never an awkward transition or stylistic error, and all precisely executed by a very talented and committed cast. This company is the definition of esprit de corps, period.
Kyle Abraham, recently anointed as a MacArthur Fellow, offers a preview of a new work, Kollide, commissioned by BODYTRAFFIC. I am rather hesitant to critique an unfinished work, so I will just say that the five dancers, whether alone, coupled or in a group, more than do justice to the variety of movement textures Abraham has melded together. I hope in the future to see the completed result. (The world premiere is this weekend – see note at end.)
The evening finishes up with o2Joy, choreographed by Richard Siegal. At first it appears to be one of those too cutesy dances to big band music, but when Cooper Neely begins to lipsynch to Ella Fitzgerald’s “All of Me” the piece goes off the rails into a hilarious tongue-in-cheek spoof. Barbeito, Berkett, Neely, Miguel Perez and Guzmán Rosado all exude their joy in the movement and make us want to rush the stage and join in. Just one suggestion – put this piece on first and close with the full-company And at midnight. Reducing the ranks over the course of the program doesn’t let the energy build for a satisfying bang of a finish.
If you are in the Los Angeles area, BODYTRAFFIC is performing October 11 and 12 at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. Kollide will have its world premiere. For more info: www.thebroadstage.com or www.bodytraffic.com