“Adelante:” A Celebratory Affair for AXIS Dance Company
Nadia Adame, AXIS Dance Company’s new Artistic Director, was greeted by enthusiastic cheers from a full house at ODC Theater on Friday, September 16th. The evening marked the opening night of “Adelante,” AXIS’s first home season with Adame at the helm. The program featured three world premieres by both disabled and nondisabled choreographers for the company of disabled and nondisabled dancers.
First up was “Breathe Again,” a trio choreographed by Adame with music composed by Miles Lassi, lighting by Ben Levine, and costumes by Vincent Avery. It opened on a solo for JanpiStar, demonstrating their muscular strength and sensitivity to a broad spectrum of imagery. Later, all three dancers moved with tension and sometimes a peculiar stuckness that indicated they were feeling resistance in the empty air around them. Louisa Mann shone in slinking, creature-like movements.
Next on the program was “Tread,” choreographed by former AXIS Choreo-Lab choreographer Ben Levine, with music composed by Stephen Johnson III, and lighting by Levine and Juan Juarez. “Tread” evoked memories of childhood, as it featured scooter boards (small, 4-wheeled platforms with handles on each side), children’s voices, and playful smiles from the five performers. At times, the intense, dramatic lighting and music didn’t seem to match the playful energy of the dancers’ movements and expressions. “Tread” was a laundry list of innovative uses for a scooter board, including a moment where all five dancers clung to each other to create one many-limbed caterpillar on wheels.
Last on the program was Spanish choreographer Asun Noales’s “Desiderata,” with music composed by Aurora Bauzà and Pere Jou, lighting by John Bernard, and costumes by Vincent Avery. All five company members thrived in this work that showcased their ability to alternate between sensations on a dime. Noales magically created the kind of unison that’s better than complete uniformity, with slight variations tailored to the individual humans performing the movement.
“Desiderata” took its time in an admirable way, giving way to generous solos and duets. In a fierce solo showcasing her versatility, Alaja Badalich was as sharp in her isolations as she was liquid in her adagio. A series of duets, in which the same elements were repeated by different dancers in varying combinations with each other, highlighted the company’s connectedness but also the distinctive personality of each individual. JanpiStar executed a mesmerizing turn sequence. David Calhoun demonstrated their satisfying contemporary gooeyness in a solo that slithered and carved through space.
As it ebbed and flowed, “Desiderata” told a story of specificity, patience, and spaciousness. Before I knew it, the piece gently reached its conclusion and the audience was on its feet in a standing ovation.
Emily Hansel is a San Francisco-based dancer, choreographer, dance teacher, arts administrator, and dance.