Among the cognoscenti of the dance world, Los Angeles has long been considered a kind of cultural backwater when it comes to "serious" dance.
But Bodytraffic, a 6-year-old Los Angeles-based repertory company that appears in The City this week, is challenging that notion, making waves all the way to the East Coast dance establishment. Dance magazine recently listed the troupe in its "25 to Watch in 2013."
Co-founders Lillian Barbeito and Tina Finkelman Berkett, both East Coast transplants, met in a Los Angeles ballet class and recognized their mutual drive and aesthetic.
"I equated Tina's energy and sharpness and confidence with being a New Yorker," Barbeito says. "That hasn't dissipated since she's come to L.A."
Barbeito and Berkett, who each relocated for their families, arrived in Southern California at the height of their respective dance careers, but found little opportunity to perform concert dance.
"We decided to bring the kind of work we wanted to do here," Barbeito says. "We're extremely invested in Los Angeles as a center for dance."
It was important that their dancers have human as well as professional goals. "We feel a lightness in L.A. and we encourage that in our dancers," Berkett says. "We want them to have balance and a family life."
That lightness seems to extend to repertory choices that bring a distinctive freshness to even the most urban or theatrical material. "It all has a signature and is very original — not derivative," Berkett says. "Within a few minutes you know whose work it is."
This week at ODC Theater, Bodytraffic presents three works by three choreographers.
The program includes the Bay Area premiere of Israeli choreographer Barak Marshall's "and at midnight the green bride flew," featuring a soundtrack of Yiddish, Ladino and Yeminite love songs. Marshall's renowned choreographer-dancer mother, Margalit Oved Marshall, who appears in the piece, inspired the darkly comedic morality tale about a 1940s dysfunctional family from a village in Yemen.
Richard Siegel's Bay Area premiere of "O2Joy" is a jazzy and joyous homage to the jazz idiom performed to the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Glenn Miller and the Oscar Peterson Trio.
Completing the program is a segment from Kyle Abraham's aptly named "Kollide," combining ballet and modern dance with hip-hop. Because of its lighting and film projection, the piece requires a fair amount of technical prep work.
"ODC is giving us a one-week tech residency which is unheard of," Barbeito says. "It's such a gift."
IF YOU GOBodytraffic
Where: ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $20 to $35
Contact: (415) 863-9834, odcdance.org/buytickets.php