“Well this is different,” was my first thought walking into ODC Theater, a place I’ve entered hundreds of times. My appreciation for the aesthetic choices in Emily Hansel’s choreographic premiere, “Four by Four,” continued throughout the evening. The stage was covered in a light gray marley with the black backdrop set on an asymmetrical angle that gave the stage an unexpected depth. It was a smart setting for the four performers that graced the stage, dressed in lush monochromatic tones.
In the provided program, Hansel answers, “What’s the show about?” With, “I don’t know.” I took that as a signal that what we would be seeing was still cooking and would still be cooking for a while to come; I felt the same when the show ended. The performers and co-creators, Alex Carrington, Mia J. Chong, Shareen DeRyan, and Chelsea Reichert, prolific Bay Area artists, moved through three sections of the evening-length performance with skillful grace and shared a deep connection with each other. Hansel’s movement was geometric with soft edges guided by a sense of exploration and play.
In the first section, the movement appeared task-based — a choreographed conversation that rotated around the four quadrants of the stage and music, composed by Sophia Cotraccia and Ben Juodvalkis, that vibrated the seats (which I loved). The second section of the piece was an ode to process. Performers DeRyan and Reichert created a spontaneous duet, adding movement like building blocks to create a phrase. The section’s movement was subtle and responsive. The final section was equally gentle and exploratory before the dancers spiraled out of the space through the same hallway they entered into, leaving us wondering what could be next.
Hansel’s excellence in process included transparent fundraising, equitable and safe working conditions for the performers, and ongoing consent that should be a standard bearer for the performing arts world. “Four by Four” was a gentle dive into Hansel’s emerging career as a choreographer and I look forward to seeing what’s next for them.
Kathryn Florez is the Artistic Director of Fullstop Dance as well as a freelance performer and teacher. Florez’s work has been presented all over the West Coast, and her choreography and teaching have been commissioned in Vancouver, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Oakland.