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    Jill Frere (left) and Rebekah Morin in Approaching Climax in Jody Oberfelder: Approaching Climax
    Photo by Julie Lemberger
    Jill Frere (left) and Rebekah Morin in Approaching Climax

    Easy Fun, Broad Humor

    Jody Oberfelder's world is full of human contact


    Jody Oberfelder has a lot of fun creating dances, her dancers enjoy performing them, and her audiences laugh often. Hidden in the easy charm and broad humor are plenty of tricky partnerings and physically demanding moves, too, in configurations only Oberfelder could think of, such as a pair of dancers pushing off of each other's feet from various positions on the floor.

    Choreography by: Jody Oberfelder.
    Dancers: Aditi Dhruv, Jill Frere, Rebekah Morin, Jody Oberfelder, Ed Rice, Jake Szczypek.
    Music by: Stephin Merritt/The Magnetic Fields.
    Lighting design by: Kathy Kaufmann.

    Related links: Joyce Soho
    Joyce Soho
    February 12-15, 2009

    At its best, Oberfelder's choreography is sweet and playful, colorful and funny, with a large variety of movements based more in gymnastics and contact improv than in technical dance. Bright costumes of red and orange and plenty of colorful lighting and monochrome backgrounds give Moved a peppy high school feel, and twisted and absurd music and lyrics by The Magnetic Fields give it a welcome dose of wryness to counteract any excessive pep. There is plenty of moshing and tumbling throughout, but each of ten different sections has its own minitheme and corresponding song. The last section especially, Busby Berkely dreams, is aptly named and deftly structured, ending with a spinning circle of six dancers, three of whom are flying via centrifugal force, linked arms to shoulders with the other three, who aren't necessarily the biggest of the six; yet another charm of Oberfelderworld is the irrelevance of size or sex in most partnering interactions.

    All of Oberfelder's dancers — Aditi Dhruv, Jill Frere, Rebekah Morin, Ed Rice and Jake Szczypek — have a relaxed and flexible attitude and give everything they do an easy grace, even when the movements are far from graceful. Oberfelder herself is a bit more brisk and precise, due both to her size (tiny) and a probably deeply ingrained gymnastics background, which allow her to dance physically difficult material well, well past the age most dancers slow down or stop.

    The new piece presented at this Joyce Soho show is Approaching Climax. Most of the movement feels similar to the earlier piece, but there seem to be far more hitches and struggles built into the choreography of Climax. Onstage narration is a new twist here, each dancer alone or with partners taking turns sitting on or around a stool delivering truly corny observations, using dance and theater clich├ęs, about what is or may be going on onstage, while a live video projection of the narrator's face fills most of the back wall. Much of the audience found the punning funny throughout, but after, for instance, a "dramatic arc" of light hit the floor and the comments seemed more and more forced and canned, the ba-dum-dum appeal of the humor grew a little thin. Just watching enormously magnified faces on the back wall is fairly interesting in itself, but after a while the pull between the big projected faces, the danced action and the wince-inducing narrations became more distracting than enjoyable.

    Overall, though, this was a charming and inventive evening of dance that rewarded those who went with the flow.

    FEBRUARY 19, 2009

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