Paradise lost

Kunst-Stoff and LEVYdance travel through violent legacies in a powerful double bill

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Turbulent memories: Kunst-Stoff's Rebetiko (including Chin-chin Hsu, pictured) delve into artistic and human being
PHOTO BY KEIRA HEU-JWYN CHANG

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DANCE Expanding like a landscape, the view into ODC's theater from its narrow hallway entrance has become a theatrical experience. Passing through, you can't help but be in a good mood. For the site's official opening program, ODC Theater Director Rob Bailis invited two local choreographers of quite different temperament to create their own scenery. Planned or not, Yannis Adoniou and Ben Levy explored similar territories — the debt that each of them owes to his heritage as an artist and human being. Adoniou is of Greek and Levy of Jewish Persian descent. Neither lapsed into sentimentality; the two pieces were fierce and dark, and each connected like a powerful punch.

Adoniou based Kunst-Stoff's Rebetiko on the underground music that Greek emigrants brought with them when they were forcefully expelled from Turkey in the early part of the 20th century. It's a work in which haunting memories and contemporary pain flow through choreography that whimpers, rebels, and howls yet finishes on a note of peace, or at least resignation. At 45 minutes, Rebetiko is a stretch for its material. Nonetheless, it is perhaps Adoniou's most integrated and finest work to date. Marina Fukushima, Chin-chin Hsu, Daniel Howerton, Daiane Lopes da Silva, and Julia Stiefel were the ferocious dancers; Catherine Clambanevea the excellent singer.

Adoniou plunges his refugees into a sea of darkness (fabulous lighting by Lisa Pinkham) and ominous city sounds (music and songs by Minos Matsas). They struggle, hide, escape, and survive — barely. Whips lash, ropes imprison, bodies are pulled to ground. Lopez da Silva whirls herself into a fury like a goddess of revenge and Howerton runs, hunted by invisible pursuers. Hsu seems stunned, frozen in deep plié or doubled over. Yet out of the darkness emerges a ray of hope, a tentative Greek folk dance duet for Howerton and Fukushima. Still, at the end he collapses — a man overcome, a culture destroyed.

Setting off the gloom is a luminous banner that spills onto the stage. Under Pinkham's masterful lighting, it variously suggests turbulent memories, a place of safety, a paradise lost. It also pays fine tribute to rebetiko's culture of shadow puppetry.

In Our Body Remembers, LEVYdance strips away the layers that have accumulated in our bodies, sending us back into an inchoate state of being. If I understood choreographer Levy correctly, he looks at this unspooling with a mix of trepidation, bemusement, and awe. Sarah Phykitt's lighting and set divides the stage into various areas of activity, making fine use of ODC's new space. Kardash (Marty Huerta and Murat Bayhan) create the aural landscape.

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