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ODC’s Dance and Diaspora gets its groove on

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Choreographer and belly dance instructor Jill Parker, left, and the Foxglove Sweethearts will appear at ODC’s “Dance and Diaspora” on Feb. 22-23. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Choreographer and belly dance instructor Jill Parker, left, and the Foxglove Sweethearts will appear at ODC’s “Dance and Diaspora” on Feb. 22-23.

For those needing to get off the couch and jump-start their New Year’s fitness resolutions, ODC has the perfect twofer: On Monday, the studio’s Rhythm and Motion Dance Program offers an open dance class and party at the ODC Theater. Beginner-friendly lessons in Afro-Brazilian and belly dance will be followed by a bash featuring Middle Eastern and Latin food with a live music dance jam.

Then on Feb. 22-23, class participants will have the opportunity to see two of the instructors, belly dance choreographer Jill Parker and Afro-Brazilian choreographer Tania Santiago, in ODC’s annual “Dance and Diaspora” performance.

ODC Theater director Christy Bolingbroke compares “Dance and Diaspora” to a tapas meal, “where we can sample dance and culture in small bites. We’re showcasing the range within the ODC community representing the diversity of the larger community.”

Parker and her company Foxglove Sweethearts will perform a piece titled “Unfolding.” She says, “The company name reflects the sweetness at the heart of belly dance.”

Inspired by Middle Eastern music, Parker was drawn away from jazz and ballet to belly dance’s different type of movement. “There was something in the nuance, softness and sensuality of it that spoke to me,” she says. “It’s a really powerful feeling to embrace your femininity and sexuality — and it’s super fun to do.”

Parker describes her choreography as “tribal fusion”: “It’s highly stylized, taking some elements from flamenco, but with a vintage feeling. It has a kind of old-time showgirl quality.”

Balkan and Turkish band MWE  will accompany the performance, augmenting traditional high-pitched reed instruments and bass drum with clarinet, saxophone and tabla.

Santiago’s Aguas dance troupe will perform “Movendo con Capoeira,” a blend of Afro-Cuban song, rhythm and dance that incorporates graceful and powerful elements of capoeira, Brazil’s indigenous martial arts form.

Trained in traditional and contemporary Western movement, Santiago says her work reflects the spiritual and cultural influences of her home.

“Afro-Brazilian is where I express myself, where I tell the story of who I am and who were my ancestors,” she says. “But I like the way modern dance moves the dancers around the stage. So, in my choreography I like to play with levels — I try to explore the space.”

On Monday, newbies to Afro-Brazilian dance will be in safe hands. “My class is for everybody. You don’t have to be a dancer, but you have to be open to a new thing. Just come with an open heart.”

Dance and Diaspora

  • Where: ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., S.F.
  • When: 8 p.m. Feb. 22-23
  • Tickets: $20 to $28
  • Contact: (415) 863-9834, www.odcdance.org
  • Note: The open Studio to Stage dance class runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday at ODC.