Widgets Magazine

Fight or Flight: The ODC Pilot Program, Cycle 58

At the end of the month, six promising choreographers will present their work at “Fight or Flight,” the 58th iteration of ODC Dance Commons’ Pilot Program. The Oberlin Dance Collective, commonly known as ODC, is a cornerstone of the San Francisco dance scene. Founded 40 years ago at Oberlin College in Ohio, it relocated to the Bay Area in 1976 and has since been “dedicated to the life cycle of the artistic process.”

A main ingredient in its mission to cultivate artists, the Pilot Program offers a launching pad for emerging choreographers and a “vehicle to present work in a professional environment.” Each 11-week cycle compels choreographers to try on the different hats of dance production and administration in a mentored environment.

Since the program’s inception in 1990, nearly 300 choreographers have participated in such cycles, culminating in professional showcases at ODC, located in the Mission district of San Francisco. Many of them have continued on to enjoy illustrious careers in the Bay Area, across the country and internationally.

Past participants are only too familiar in the Stanford community. Todd Eckert, a Pilot alum, visited Stanford’s Dance Division as a guest choreographer earlier this year. Six Stanford dancers performed “Sestina,” the brand new work he created for them, at the Dance Division’s winter concert, “The Body and What It Carries.” Amy Seiwert, another Pilot alum, has worked with Stanford students as a guest choreographer twice in the past five years.

The current flows in both directions; the present cycle of the program, Pilot 58, features recent Stanford graduate Katharine Hawthorne (’10). A physics major and dance minor, Hawthorne’s choreography echoes her interest in “the intersection of science, technology, art practice and authorship.”

Her entrancing new work “Lumen,” a duet for two women who interact with each other and a moving light source, is an interdisciplinary exploration that sprang from her “fascination with light as a physical quantity” and her research, conducted at Stanford, examining “light-matter interactions, lasers and how light behaves in a gravitational field.”

Hawthorne, along with her five fellow Pilot 58 choreographers, presented her work in progress at a private showing this past Sunday. The six compositions, limited to 10 minutes apiece, reflected a diverse set of artistic visions and offered a refreshing creative breadth.

Erica Rose Jeffrey’s “War Letters,” a double duet, evoked an old photograph as it pondered the dynamics of physical and emotional distance between loved ones.

“SLAM” by Bianca Cabrera was a quirky but captivating trio in awkward gesture. Confined to a small square of green vinyl, the three figures were at once cartoonlike, robotic and human, dressed in neon and hipster glasses.

Raisa Punkki, an experienced group choreographer, has opted to make and dance the solo work, “numbERs.” So multi-faceted in her precise embodiment of nuanced characterizations, Punkki simultaneously conjures the complexity of a group piece and the intimacy of “a solo about the most fragile.”

Byb Chanel Bibene’s site-based piece “Nzoto Installationis” carried viewers from ODC’s lobby, up the stairs and into the studio, accompanied by live cello and percussion.

In Ashley Trottier’s “Good Morning,” slightly darker than the title suggests, an assortment of women depict how one might contend with “adoration, fascination and disgust for the world in which [they] live.”

Following each presentation, a feedback session allowed the choreographer’s peers and Pilot advisor, Lizz Roman, to engage with and comment on the work as well as the arc of progress made since the previous showing.


Pilot 58 culminates in three performances of “Fight or Flight” on March 26 at 8 p.m., and March 27 at 4 and 8 p.m. at ODC Dance Commons in San Francisco.