I made it back to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Thursday to catch ODC Dance?s second program, and was well rewarded. To begin with, ?Fiendish Variations??set to Bach?s Passacaglia in C Minor?has held up exceptionally well since its premiere last year, and may just be one of Brenda Way?s best works. But the premieres on this slate were KT Nelson?s, and I emerged an admirer of ?Lost at Sea.?

Unlike Nelson works set to exuberant music by the likes of Swedish rock band Hoven Droven and minimalist Michael Nyman, ?Lost at Sea? is not a crowd-pleaser. It is slow and enigmatic, set to a moody score by Phil Kline. A rim of light on the stage delineates something like a deck; the nine men and women wear faux-leather bottoms and racer back tank tops, and one of the inadvertent pleasures is seeing Yukie Fujimoto dressed like a modern dance Joan Jett. But the movement is supremely solemn, and wonderfully suggestive. At times the dancers flop like fish or careen like crew members, thankfully never literally impersonating either. Andrea Flores is memorably hoisted by two men in a long central trio, though it is Fujimoto?s searching stare that ends the work. What happens on stage?much of it very beautiful?cannot be reduced to a plotline. And what struck me most were the virtues that ?Lost at Sea? shares with Nelson?s 2004 ?RingRoundRozi.? Both allow their metaphors to breathe with mystery and imaginative possibility. Nelson is working at a very intuitive and gutsy level.

My only complaint: Kim Turos?s stage design for ?Lost at Sea? looks amateurish, particularly the projections. For a full review of this program, check out Janice Berman in the Chronicle, and Voice of Dance?sAllan Ulrich, who pronounces thusly:

?Two weeks ago, on the opening night of ODC/Dance?s annual “Dancing Downtown” season, the revival of co-artistic director?s KT Nelson?s smashing RingRoundRozi stole a bit of the thunder from the two premieres by artistic director Brenda Way. Thursday (March 17) at San Francisco?s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, it was clearly a case of d?j? dans?. The premieres were Nelson?s, but the revivals of Way?s Fiendish Variations – Parts 1 and 2 and Crash reminded one anew that, beyond its corporate genius at fundraising, ODC/Dance has become a local institution the hard way – through sheer talent.

Not that there was anything wrong with Nelson?s Shenanigans and Lost at Sea. They?re both modest, agreeable, handsomely dispatched efforts, which demonstrate Nelson?s growing sophistication in choosing scores (are we done with all those obscure Nordic rock bands?). But one is, essentially, a party piece and the other is a technical exercise. Still, these are the chances you take with a modern dance repertory company; some dances endure and others are fated to evaporate.?

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