Monday, June 1, 2009

Dance review: Show of new work bids affectionate farewell to Klein space

Nick Klein's poster for the Ollarvide show.

By Sharon McDaniel

LAKE WORTH -- The tiny studio was packed. A Klein Dance Company audience normally fits onto the two rows of benches that overlook the dance floor and stretch the length of the Lake Avenue studio.

Sunday night was different. Chairs had been added, lots of them, creating a semi-circle, as if embracing the stage and dancers. Modern-dance fans, former company dancers and family members looked on as Klein Dance completed its 20th season and, in its present state, performed its last. It was also the last day that the landmark at 811 Lake Ave. in Lake Worth would house the Klein Dance Studio.

The emotional finale featured seven long-term Klein performers plus one guest artist in a night of new choreography by Klein alumna Andrea Ollarvide (at right). And indeed all the produce was fresh-picked; the oldest work on the program had been premiered in December.

Clarence Brooks, who performed the work Man Is Baby at Florida Atlantic University six months ago, reprised it for the first time at the Klein Studio. The solo is set to I Am a Bird Now, by the pop band Antony & the Johnsons. It relies on repeated arm patterns – the slow sweep of wide arcs, a hand drawn across the chest.

But nothing about Man Is Baby is literal. The ballet is a wellspring of strong, deep spirituality that Brooks, FAU assistant professor and director of dance, has internalized beautifully. If the Klein dancers wore Ollarvide’s choreography well, like a mantle, Brooks seemed to be at one with the work from the inside out.

The longest work, 811 Lake Avenue, Lake Worth, Florida 33460, was also the newest. Ollarvide began creating it in March as a tribute to the studio, a dance space she has called home since age 12. Also the largest work, it featured a cast of five women: Kori Epps, Amber Hartman, Stephanie McCluney, Kiya Schnorr and Ollarvide – familiar artists from both Klein Dance and the PBA (Palm Beach Atlantic University) Dance Ensemble.

Ollarvide in particular has been a special spark onstage in Klein Dance since 2004. One of the company’s loveliest dancers, she is a native Floridian, living in Palm Beach County all her life. She began dancing at the age of 4, and graduated from the Dreyfoos School of the Arts in 2006. Although she was accepted into the acclaimed Dance Conservatory of Purchase College in New York, she chose to attend Palm Beach Atlantic University where she studied dance and film production. Beginning in August, she is transferring to Miami’s New World School of the Arts.

Ollarvide credits company Artistic Director Demetrius Klein and Eileen Hebron, actress and former American Ballet Theatre dancer, among her mentors. At Klein’s request, the choreographer gave her first one-woman show in October 2007 at the Klein studio.

In her salute to what she calls “the most comfortable place,” she calls for some of the most uncomfortable-looking modern techniques. The five women open the 25-minute work on the floor – or hovering just above it. They are stretched out, face down, leaning on their elbows, their hands clasped in front of them.

But there is tension. Their feet are flexed, and only their toes and elbows actually touch the floor. It is a very striking pose that cycles throughout the major work. And with rock music by The Jesus Lizard, the ladies show off not only the demanding choreography, but also their own considerable abilities in extreme exercises, gymnastics, relay racing and partnering.

Ollarvide, in the post-performance discussion, said that she had given her fellow dancers certain words or images to start the exploration process and to trigger distant memories of the Lake Avenue Studio. If that’s the case, life at the studio must have been a high-wire balancing act: All five dancers walk gingerly along two parallel dance barres. Yet this single-file expedition keeps you on the edge of your seat, gritting your teeth because the two barres aren’t even the same height. Worse, one wobbles.

Aside from the two barres, a third plus a bar stool, a three-step riser, a 4-foot speaker and the white drape that stretches along stage rear comprise the 811 Lake Avenue set. As she exits beneath the curtain, Ollarvide blows a kiss to the dance floor.

The three barres, reassembled and manipulated by Nick Klein, took on new purposes. After posing as stationary visuals in 811 Lake Avenue, they transform into movable, percussive sound sources in Assignments, Ollarvide’s solo on the program’s first half. At the end, dancer and sound artist come together to create a touching symbolic as well as physical partnership.

The evening began with Upstairs, a love duet featuring exceptional ballerina Stephanie McCluney and returning former Klein dancer Denver Milord. It rather summed up a feeling of tribute, of remembrance and respect, whether between a couple or, as in the company finale, between a dance family and its home.

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