Irresistible ODC

The Velveteen Rabbit: a tradition too good to give up
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PREVIEW Some traditions are just too good to give up. I can forgo most holiday customs, except for singing carols, The Nutcracker, and a Tom and Jerry with lots of nutmeg and rum, preferably drunk from properly labeled china cups. Another, a peculiar San Francisco tradition is ODC/Dance's The Velveteen Rabbit. It has proved remarkably sturdy and remains quite irresistible.

You'd think at a time when kids are growing up with anime and Nintendo games, there would be little interest in a story about a sawdust-stuffed rabbit and 10-foot-tall nanny who brooks no nonsense in the nursery. Yet KT Nelson's 22-year-old adaptation of Margery Williams' 1922 classic,with its whiff of upper-class British propriety, has not lost one iota of its charm. Nelson choreographed it when her son was young. Maybe that helped with the inspiration.

Another reason is that right from the beginning, ODC went for top quality in its choice of its collaborators. They could barely afford children's author Brian Arrowsmith's costumes and design, but what an investment that turned to be. The combination of Geoff Hoyle's narration, Benjamin Britten's score, and Rinde Eckert's voice was inspired. By now ODC's dancers may be able to dance their roles in their sleep — but it doesn't show. They don the parts like a second skin and seem to enjoy themselves. Daytime performances, at 90 minutes, in a relatively small theater, should make Rabbit accessible even to the younger crowd.

THE VELVETEEN RABBIT Fri/28-Dec. 14, call for times, $15–$45. Novellus Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard, SF. (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org, www.odcdance.org

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