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    Crash Helmet Brigade in Jody Oberfelder: Heads or Tales
    Photo by Julie Lemberger
    Crash Helmet Brigade

    Heads or Tales You Win

    Jody Oberfelder brings plenty of joy to her 20th anniversary concert


    Jody Oberfelder has been making dances for 20 years, and she gave the best 20th anniversary show I've seen. Heads or Tales has plenty of the silly double entendres and physical groupwork that typify her style, but it also does a beautiful job of showing the continuity and longevity of her dance "family."

    Choreography by: Jody Oberfelder.
    Dancers: Jody Oberfelder, Brynne Billingsley, Aditi Dhruv, Elise Knudson, Rebekah Morin, Edward Rice, Jake Szczypek, Carlton Cyrus Ward
    guest performers: Kim Irwin, Lynn Neuman, Cydney Pullman, Julie Ramirez, Edisa Weeks and two dozen more
    Music by: Andrew Nolen, Melody Fader, Malina Rauschenfels.
    Sound design by: Brandon Wolcott.
    Costumes by: Katrin Schnabl, Liz Prince, Wade Jensen, Eileen Fisher.
    Lighting design by: Kathy Kaufmann.
    Production stage manager: Sarah Murphy.
    Visual design: Will Arnold.
    Film: Jody Oberfelder, Nic Petry, Ronald K. Gray, Ben Speth.
    Abrons Arts Center
    March 11-13, 2010

    Films of older pieces complement the dance on stage well and give a good sense of the breadth of Oberfelder's creative journey, with an opening soundtrack of music her band made in the 1980s. Black and white film of pregnant Jody and old film clips edited into video windows framed in an old film strip also give a sense of the passing of time in a way that feels natural, and they also encourage a twinge of nostalgia for black and white and film and the 1980s.

    Onstage, the first piece, with a series of stylized resuscitations, manages to be both mildly anxious and funny and may be an elegant way of reminding us that there is plenty of life in this choreographer and company. It also evokes some of the anxiety and community that other meaning of 911 brought, as does the passing of bodies over each other that Oberfelder, Elise Knudson, Rebekah Morin and Carlton Ward do in clever and gymnastic ways. Much of Lineage and Sisyphus share this sense of community and heavy lifting in ways that give Oberfelder's work so much humanity.

    Wanted X Cheerleaders in Jody Oberfelder: Heads or Tales
    Photo by Julie Lemberger
    Wanted X Cheerleaders

    Wanted X Cheerleaders is just as fresh here as it was in 1994, with at least three of the original cheerleaders giving raunchy, feminine-powered cheers that address a few issues with humor and sass. Kim Irwin joins Oberfelder to revive this piece with Lynn Neuman, Cydney Pullman and Julie Ramirez.

    Rock Me Mama is the centerpiece of the show. A film of the originally shown piece with moms swinging young babies around like dolls/unwitting partners is followed first by many of those in the film coming onstage at least ten years later and dancing a new version of the dance, and then a whole new group of mothers and babies recreates the film onstage. There is such a palpable joy in family and children that it is hard not to feel fully swept in to the mood and almost feel like part of the "family."

    Rock Me Mama in Jody Oberfelder: Heads or Tales
    Photo by Julie Lemberger
    Rock Me Mama

    After a similarly fun and unpretentious hubcap-gamelan entre-act and intermission, the second half of the show buckles down a bit for more dramatic stories of Grimm fairy tales and Dido and Aeneas tales. Drama doesn't negate comedy here, either, of course, and there is a good mix of both as well as live music, notably by Andrew Nolen singing Schubert.

    Rebekah Morin as Dido and Edward Rice as Aeneas, with tiny films to introduce both, are sweetly funny in a faux fifties reinterpretation of the classic tale, and Carlton Ward on stilts makes a great sorcerer/bad guy.

    Perhaps the best single piece of choreography in the show is the duet of Elise Knudson and Carlton Ward to music by Fischerspooner from The Title Comes Last. The combination of movement, music and mood embodied by these two is perfect.

    Of course, the piece with the most fun is held for last, as Crash Helmet Brigade brings almost the entire cast onstage to wear oversize shiny helmets and brightly colored clothes and fling themselves across the stage and each other. This joyous reprise of the community feeling from the earlier Rock Me Mama makes a suitably happy ending and sets the stage for a helmet-wearing Oberfelder to reprise her gymnastic/bgirl 1986 solo Head First, which she does astonishingly well to close the show.

    MARCH 15, 2010

    Reader comments on Jody Oberfelder: Heads or Tales:

  • Jody's father & Mother write:   from Bill Oberfelder, Mar 24, 2010
  • Re: Jody's father & Mother write:   from jody Oberfelder, Mar 26, 2010

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