“We Aren’t Alone Here” Invites The Audience To React
We Aren’t Alone Here, an evening of dance featuring work by Jin Lee Baobei, Two in Seven Billion, and Dragons Dance, premiered at ODC Theater on May 19, 2023.
Erin Yen, choreographer, performer, Dragons Dance founder, and the evening’s host, set the tone for the performance by encouraging members of the audience to have fun and make noise whenever we felt like it. She freed us of the tension that can come from sitting in a big, dark, quiet theater by assuring us that we were all good audience members with nothing to prove. Erin also stated, “The most impactful art is made by treating artists well along the way” — a value evident throughout the evening as we witnessed dancers enjoying themselves in three thoughtfully produced works.
First up was “depths and mirrors,” a musically driven solo choreographed and performed by Jin Lee Baobei. Amid cheers from the crowd, Baobei’s articulate fingers, hands, arms, and spine served both abrupt sharpness as well as utter fluidity. They demonstrated spectacular ease folding in and out of the floor. In a standout moment between innovative configurations of limbs, Baobei stopped moving and stared at the audience, as if pausing their performance, then broke into a smile and resumed dancing.
Next on the program was “Continued,” choreographed and performed by Jessica Santaniello and Alex Schmidt. These two dancers ate up the space in a virtuosic display of strength moving in and out of the floor. They rolled, popped up, and flipped over their hands, but also maintained an ease and liquidity that indicated they were skilled at utilizing momentum and gravity to their advantage. I trusted their ability to execute the difficult choreography, even when there were two metal folding chairs involved in the action. In a particularly satisfying feat, the duo seamlessly passed a bright blue beanie back and forth between them while performing a complex, unison floorwork sequence.
Last on the program was “Fly Me,” choreographed by Erin Yen, and performed by Abigail Hinson, Madison McGain, and Yen . The piece opened on all three performers clustered in the corner, casually contemplating three vertical panels of light that filled the stage. They each took a panel and proceeded with a series of actions ranging from literal, pedestrian tasks to abstract, full-bodied moves. Play a fiddle, smile, smoke a cigarette, serve tea, “YES!”, kick, loud yawn, jazz hands, coy lean, binoculars, small jives. I was quickly convinced that these were three very humorous people.
The dancers played along while a serious voice radioed in to prepare for liftoff then devolved into silliness while singing a made-up tune. Yen danced a sincere and snarky solo, while the other two dancers looked on and chatted quietly in the corner. Hinson and McGain began a slow dance to “Moon River,” which evolved into an awesome duet where the weight of their bodies repeatedly melted together then bounced apart. The contrast of truly falling with being suddenly in control on one’s own weight was striking. These shifts between opposites lended to the sense of humor that was still present.
All three dancers executed a splendid canon that turned to unison, which was much more formal than the rest of the choreography, but magically not out of place in the world of this piece. Hinson enjoyed some air time in what I’d call a lip sync to “Fly Me to the Moon,” if not for the fact that her entire body was fully involved in the syncing. Near the end, the audience cheered at a jazzy, big band trio punctuated by signature Erin Yen stare downs. The beloved made-up tune by our radio voice returned multiple times throughout the piece, easing transitions between different sections and reminding me of Yen’s words about not taking things too seriously.
Emily Hansel is a San Francisco-based dancer, choreographer, dance teacher, arts administrator, and dance.