My review in today’s Chronicle:
“One of our city’s most important dance spaces, ODC Theater, is closed for a major rebuild this year, but director Rob Bailis isn’t sitting idle. He’s teamed with the historically beleaguered, heroically persevering management of Project Artaud Theater just a few blocks away in the Mission for an ambitious series of festivals.
“For the Record,” which opened last weekend, will be followed by “Local Heroes/Big Picture” in June and July, and “Off Book: Stories That Move,” a partnership with the wildly popular local literary festival Litquake, in October. In the meantime, “For the Record: Dancers Debate the Body Politic” unfolds in phases, too: Legendary local rabble-rouser Sara Shelton Mann will unveil the full triptych of her “Inspirare” next weekend, and homegrown choreographer Miguel Gutierrez returns from a burgeoning international career with two works about the intersection of politics and the body the weekend after.
It’s treacherous territory, politically inspired dance, but Bailis has never shied from taking chances and “For the Record’s” opening weekend displayed the risks and the rewards. The two works made an unintentional case study in the pitfalls and poetic potential of overtly making art about social issues.
Aerial choreographer Jo Kreiter’s “Lies You Can Dance To” took an obvious message – American history is full of deception – and beat it into the ground with simplifying visuals. Butoh artist Ledoh and his creative collective Salt Farm used a heated topic – immigration – as a jumping-off point for wildly suggestive, metaphorically expansive images that spoke not just to our times, but to the challenges of the human condition.”
I could have written so much more about Ledoh, and one small line on his “Color Me America” got cut, probably for space. Here’s that section of the review with the tiny cut restored:
“Ledoh and Salt Farm’s “Color Me America” was stunning antidote. Though you can point to the work’s trappings to explain its success, with its hip and ear-teasing electronic score by Matthew Ogaz, and its gorgeous video by Perry Hallinan, the heart of “Color Me America” is in the movement. Ledoh, born in Burma, is trained in butoh, that apocalyptic post-World War II Japanese form where focused physical intention is all, where the performer’s roiling facial expressions expose the emotional inauthenticity of our typical existence. Here, he channels butoh’s essence without ever falling into its cliches.
The symbols are simple but used in beguiling combination: a row of four chairs that suggests endless bureaucratic waiting, placed onstage, and in the vast Interstate 5-like landscapes onscreen, and a red-tape-like ream of gauze with which Ledoh finally strangles his fellow performer, the excellent Iu-Hui Chua. For that final scene, the broad-chested, bald Ledoh wears a red corset and skirt and tasseled Spanish hat, an absurd foreigner; he fetches a bone in a way that suggests our dog-eat-dog mindset about ?aliens? (the video even shows a real dog gnawing on another dog?s skull).”
Click here for the full review.