Watching “Coop,” the piece by somebodies dance theater that kicked off the Live Arts Fest on Friday, felt like having a deliciously wacky dream. The evening-length work proceeded by a free-associative logic and offered moments of sublime dance.
Choreographed by company directors Gina Bolles Sorensen and Kyle Sorensen, “Coop” packed the stage at the White Box Theater with a cast of 22, including six students from Grossmont College and 11 from San Diego City College.
The only professional performers were the Sorensens and three members of somebodies— Angel Acuna, Lauren Christie, and Nicole Oga—and they did the standout dancing. In an opening solo, Gina Bolles Sorensen “swam” through the air, striking askew, off-balance poses as easily if she were supported by water; and, at the same time, the movement swam through her body.
Sorensen and Acuna did a low unison scramble as Christie danced alone. Then the three came together in a mutually supportive adagio.
In a captivating high point, the Sorensens, Acuna, and Oga wore floor-length skirts made of tiers of plastic bags and careened like pieces a Lewis Carroll chess board. Scurrying with tight, fast steps that made them look as if they were on wheels, they did goofy upper-body gestures—head throws, semaphore arms, solar plexuses contracting as if they’d been punched in the stomach. The Sorensens are geniuses at choosing music, and here they used wonderfully demented circus-y music by the Danish band Analogik. The couple has studied in Israel, and this section’s surreal magic reminded me of the Israeli company Vertigo.
The pros were so good, part of me wished the entire piece were being done by artists at that level. And, perhaps because they were tailoring choreography to the students’ skill level, the first several sections all had a similar moderate, groovy pace that eventually made me yearn for speed and abandon.
On the other hand, there was something beautiful about the larger universe of dancers in “Coop,” a title that suggests a chicken coop (there’s some funny egg imagery) and cooperation. And it was fascinating to see how the Sorensens kept things interesting in the student sections, often by having several movement phrases happening at once.
And, just when I got hungry for speed, the section with the plastic-bag skirts ramped things up, though I would have still liked a more varied pace at the beginning.
In a whimsical, if slight, video animation by Kyle Sorensen, a hatching egg produced a chick and then a variety of strange “offspring:” a strawberry, a birdcage, a woman in a bustled dress. Near the end came a flurry of intriguing phrases that I would have liked to read, but too many other things were happening onstage.
Having followed the Sorensens over their nine years in San Diego, I was intrigued by elements in “Coop” that I’ve seen in earlier work, for instance, having one dancer on all fours as if holding the space for two or three others, as happened in “Seeker,” a January premiere. And this is the second time, to my knowledge, that they used music that folds in the “L’Amour est un oiseau rebelle” melody from “Carmen,”—it happened with Waldeck’s “Get Up, Carmen” in an earlier solo and with Rufus Wainwright’s “Oh, What a World” in “Coop.”
They also used the fabulous plastic-bag skirts in “SILO” in the 2016 Fringe Festival. It feels as if they’re creating a continuous dream, one I don’t want to end.
“Coop” ran on Friday night only. However, the Live Arts Fest, presented by San Diego Dance Theater, continues with a different performance each night though next Sunday, April 22.