Flesh of our flesh

Pub date November 9, 2010


DANCE When I think of the term “landscape” in a broad sense, it seems that beyond referring to any certain vista, the word connotes an integrated whole, a thing beyond its particulars. In this sense, a painting is a landscape. Its details are never separate from and exist to serve the whole. It was this feeling of watching a landscape that is most prevalent throughout ODD, AXIS/inkBoat’s new show, which premiered November 5-7 at ODC and continues Nov. 12-14 in Oakland at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts. Dancers enter and exit. Duets transpire. Bodies merge. Yet the individual elements feel inseparable from the entirety of the scene.

I had never heard of Odd Nerdrum before initially reading about ODD. An acclaimed Norwegian figurative painter, Nerdrum’s paintings are the source of inspiration for choreographer Shinichi Iova-Koga’s aptly-named piece. I Googled “Odd Nerdrum” after seeing the show, and as image after image filled the screen, I realized that although I ‘d never browsed through any of Nerdrum’s paintings, many of the images were strikingly familiar. I’d seen the living embodiment of many of them through the course of the show.

The paintings are dark. Flesh is a recurring element. There is also a distinctly Old World feel. These themes are found within ODD: the stage is dimly lit and at times almost murky. The motif of flesh is explored in the costume choices and particularly when many of the dancers bare their squirming muscular backs. I was particularly intrigued by the ways in which the androgynous quality of the paintings are recreated in the dance. No dancer stands out from the rest. Individual gender, color, personality, and physicality seem to disappear.

Perhaps the one exception is Iova-Koga himself. Assuming that the majority of his audience has little to no knowledge of Nerdrum’s work, he introduces quotes and personal thoughts on Nerdrum as a sort of prelude to the piece. Later, Iova-Koga walks into the choreography awhirl onstage and begins a monologue of hermaphrodite facts. As represented by the mythological Hermes and Aphrodite, a hermaphrodite was once considered a near-perfect being. In the popular song “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” by the Beatles, Desmond and Molly are switched in the gender stereotypical lyrics, adding a hermaphroditic element to the song.

Acclaimed cellist Joan Jeanrenaud provides musical score and accompaniment to ODD. At the point when Iova-Koga begins his monologue, Jeanrenaud incorporates snippets of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” into the instrumentation. While her music supports the androgynous landscape throughout the work, this pop culture reference in particular fuses music to motion.

The end of the piece departs dramatically from the meditative landscape of bodies floating in and out of each other. Iova-Koga is torn from his soliloquy, a stampede of accessory dancers storms the stage, and chaos essentially breaks loose. Although the piece hitherto had by no means been boring, I had definitely slipped into a reverie and was caught unaware by the explosion of action onstage. While ODD piece retains its landscape quality through to the end, this quality becomes more colorful and vibrant. The excess of bodies moving in tandem provides a unity and sense of completeness previously unfound.

Hermaphrodites, the Beatles, two dance companies, a cellist, and a painter’s body of work: ODD takes on enormous proportions, and the resulting piece is incredibly dense. There is the melding of dancers with mixed physical abilities. There is the fusion of dance and music. There is the dancing itself, a parade of overlapping solos, duets, trios, and group work. Yet it is the morphing landscape of bodies and sound that prevails. The androgynous bodies moving through space lose their individualism and become the landscape itself, creating a compelling live interpretation of Nerdrum’s work.


Fri/12–Sat/13, 8 p.m.; Sun/14, 2 p.m.

Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts

1428 Alice, Oakl..

(510) 625-0110