As March—and hopefully winter—winds to a close, the Argyros is fixing to usher in spring with a vibrant burst of color, music and movement.
In the penultimate engagement of its inaugural “Argyros Presents” series, Ketchum’s newest performing arts center will host San Francisco-based modern dance ensemble ODC/Dance.
The group was initially established in 1971 by dancer and choreographer Brenda Way, who was a faculty member at Ohio’s Oberlin College (ODC stands for Oberlin Dance Collective).
By 1976, ODC had relocated to and permanently settled in San Francisco, targeting, according to its official company history—a “dynamic, pluralistic, urban setting.” Given the often tumultuous state of the city’s counterculture in the 1970s, it should come as no surprise that ODC took root and eventually blossomed into the city’s premier dance company (it was named the city’s best by the San Francisco Bay Guardian on multiple occasions).
For nearly 50 years, ODC/Dance has regularly performed sold-out shows in its native San Francisco, but its success is hardly constrained by city limits. With filled-to-capacity engagements at the Kennedy Center, at the Joyce Theater in New York and across Europe, Russia and Asia, the company has earned bragging rights on the national and international levels.
The 10-person ensemble will perform two choreographed sequences at the Argyros on Saturday, March 30.
The first, titled “What We Carry What We Keep,” was choreographed by Way and first staged in 2017.
While designing “What We Carry,” Way asked herself, “Why do we hold on and how do we let go—of our stuff, our habits, our opinions, our relationships? What defines us in the end?”
The contemplative, half-hour-long ensemble piece poses those questions and explores them, but—as is so often the case with abstract or highly symbolic art forms—the answer may vary from beholder to beholder.
The second dance, “Triangulating Euclid,” was choreographed by Brenda Way in collaboration with K.T. Nelson and Kate Weare and strikes a stark contrast to “What We Carry.”
While the first dance is fluid and smooth, “Triangulating Euclid” draws its inspiration from the titular ancient Greek mathematician. Largely influenced by his seminal work, “Elements of Geometry,” the choreographers explore sharp angles and geometric shapes to distill Euclid’s groundbreaking mathematics.
The first book of “Elements” opens with the definition of a point in a mathematical context. Naturally, then, the dance begins with just one lone performer on stage.
As Euclid introduces more and more concepts into his instructional manual, so do more and more dancers join the stage, stringing together lines, angles and shapes with their movements.
The ancient Greeks were quintessentially dramatic in their writing, whether crafting histories, philosophical treatises or epic poems. Remarkably, mathematical textbooks were no exception to that stylistic rule, and Euclid follows the narrative trajectory, withholding his greatest proof until the end, to act as a sort of climax.
“Elements” is segmented by propositions in lieu of dramatic chapters. Starting with the basics and gradually building a rising action, Euclid eventually introduces the concept of the square in Proposition XLVI.
Having laid all necessary groundwork, he then plunges into a climactic point, offering a proof of the Pythagorean theorem.
Known as the “Windmill Proof” for its geometrical shape and the “spin” Euclid invokes via his propositions and numbers, this particular proof remains a crowning achievement in the history of mathematics.
If this feels like an innately undramatic topic, consider the Encyclopedia Britannica’s analysis: “This journey from particular definition to abstract and universal mathematical statement has been taken as emblematic of the development of civilized life.”
Indeed, Euclid’s “Elements” is so captivating a read and so influential a text that one could theoretically stage an entire ballet or opera adaptation. To choreograph such an engaging half-hour dance saga as “Triangulating Euclid” makes perfect artistic sense. That the dance signals a collaboration between three choreographers only underlines ODC/Dance’s immersion in the text.
The ODC/Dance tour will alight in Ketchum for one night only, at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 30, at the Argyros. Tickets are available at a range of prices from $30-$125 and may be purchased online at theargyros.org or by telephone at 208-726-7872.
For more information about ODC, visit it online at odc.dance.