My review in the Chronicle:
“Collaboration is an alchemical thing. Last year choreographers Janice Garrett and Charles Moulton went into the studio with the Del Sol String Quartet and emerged with a whimsical, wacky, touching confrontation, “StringWreck.” This year Garrett and Moulton teamed up with another band of musicians and emerged with – alas – the modern-dance equivalent of an hourlong music video for singer-songwriter Odessa Chen.
Chen overwhelms all else in “The Illustrated Book of Invisible Stories,” continuing through Sunday at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum. Her voice is a soothing, clear whisper, and her songs are dreamy, pretty lamentations. But even backed by a lush eight-member ensemble and augmented by Jonathan Russell’s original compositions and a dollop of Stravinsky, her music is neither tonally varied nor emotionally complex enough to support a full-evening piece.
What stays in mind after “The Illustrated Book” is a one-note blur of bittersweet reaching and clutching, dancers reeling as though torn limb from limb by their heartbreak. Everyone is solemn and sad all the time; every coupling is tragic – why? Because Chen’s music doesn’t give Garrett and Moulton any room to go against or around it, to add any new layers of understanding or feeling. Instead, they’re obliged to roll out corresponding pretty grief by the yard. One section, a duet for Private Freeman and Tanya Bello in which he tosses her skyward to a surge of strings, could have passed for a particularly well choreographed ice-skating routine.
This is a shame because the more important collaboration here -and one with great potential – is between Garrett and Moulton.”
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