Modern dance companies rarely survive four decades. That Oberlin Dance Collective — founded by Brenda Way in 1971 and now known in The City as ODC/Dance — has thrived all these years is exceptional.
While many organizations of this age become conservative and “safe,” ODC keeps experimenting and breaking new ground.
Evidence of that continuing exploration is onstage through March 28 in ODC’s 39th annual spring season at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in three varied programs, including two world premieres.
IF YOU GO
ODC/Dance Spring Season
Where: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard St., San Francisco
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and March 25-27; 2 p.m. Saturday and March 28
Tickets: $10 to $45
Contact: (415) 978-2787, www.odcdance.org
Program 1: March 26; March 28
Program 2: Friday-Saturday; March 25; March 27
Program 3: Thursday; 2 p.m. Saturday
The premieres are Way’s “Waving Not Drowning (A Guide to Elegance)” to a commissioned score by Pamela Z, and KT Nelson’s “Labor of Love” to Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20.
Both embody the ODC tradition of combining the freedom of contemporary dance with a sense of discipline from classical ballet.
The new work by Way is on Program 1, which also includes Nelson’s 2009 “Grassland” to a commissioned score by Marcelo Zarvos, and Nelson’s classic, gripping 1993 “River” to music by Nelson herself and Gunnar Madsen.
The “Guide to Elegance” refers to an actual French etiquette manual, recited, with translations, as part of the piece’s soundtrack. The witty choreography illustrates and comments on various terms in the manual.
Nelson’s premiere “Labor of Love” is about the “push and pull of relationships ... ending with resounding joy” reflecting Mozart’s music.
It is on Program 2, paired with Way’s dramatic 2009 “In the Memory of the Forest” to an original score by Jay Cloidt, and Way’s 2005 “Something About a Nightingale” to music by the Tin Hat Trio.
Program 3 combines “Nightingale” and “River” with Way’s 2001 “24 Exposures” to Appalachian bluegrass performed by Edgar Myer, Yo-Yo Ma and Mark O’Connor.
The 10-dancer company, headed by Way and Nelson, just completed a tour to Southeast Asia as part of the U.S. State Department’s inaugural DanceMotion USA program. During the trip, the Bangkok Post hailed “24 Exposures” as “pure pleasure of movement.”
Additional special events this season include a “Small Plates” hour-long sampler from the company repertory; the performance, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, will have party atmosphere with drinks and appetizers.
Following Friday’s performance in the Terrace Lobby is a free party especially for young audiences.
On Saturday, the ODC Dance Jam, featuring ODC’s youth performing company, presents a new work in the matinee performance, which also includes “Nightingale,” “River” and “Exposures.”