Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Value of One

The Pamela Trokanski Dance Theater, now in its 29th season at its workshop on Del Rio Place, is presenting “The Value of One,” with two remaining performances this weekend.

The piece includes approximately 20 dancers with a mix of ages from 7 to 85. There are members of the Pamela Trokanski Dance Theater (Nicole Bell, Sara Delorena, Evelia Fernandez, Sharon Riddle, Irem Sogutlugil, Michele Tobias and Trokanski herself), the PTDT Apprentice Company (Annie Cui, Maddie English, Alison Luck, Kate Macauley and Lindsey Su) and The Third Stage, Northern California’s only multi-generational contemporary dance company (JoAnne Craig-Ferraz, Mia Mangney, Ece Midillioglu, Denise Odenwalder, Cindy Robinson, Marla Shauer, Allegra Silberstein and Adrienna Turner).

The work explores the ripples people leave behind their lives, often without their knowledge. It shows how individuals are affected by interactions with others.

It asks how people are defined at different stages in life, whether they are 7 or 83 or somewhere in between.
The show begins with a recorded message introducing the theme, and explaining that all actions have repercussions. The African proverb, “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito” was used to remind people that one person using their cell phone could affect the entire audience. (It was one of the best “turn off your cell phone” messages I’ve ever heard.) “The needs of the one do not outweigh the needs of the others,” the audience was reminded.

The entire group assembled for the opening number, “Stand” by R.E.M., segueing into a number about individual uniqueness, with Michele Tobias talking about her grandfather’s comments that any day that he woke up “on the right side of the dirt was a good day.”

The whole piece was shaped by individual dancers who had recorded feelings about their lives. Ece Midillioglu, 7; Adrianna Turner, 10; and Mia Mangney, 12; described interactions with school friends, the problem of moving to a new school and the influence of a special teacher.

Ece and Adrianna danced to a song by Jewel (“All About Me”) which energetically showed the joy of being a young girl. As they danced in mirror image to their story, six dancers performed along the back wall of the stage, bringing smiles to the audience.

“The World,” by Matthew Ryan, danced by Nicole Bell, explored the “Butterfly Effect” postulated by Edward Lorenz, which says that a change as small as the beating of a butterfly’s wing in one part of the world can affect something else in another part of the world.

A group dance to music by Ane Brun showed sheer joy, “Love, Love, Love … Jump for Joy!”

Allegra Silberstein, the oldest dancer at 83, told of growing up on a farm and the life steps that brought her to becoming the poet laureate of Davis. Silberstein’s moving work sets a wonderful example for anyone who thinks that active life ends at any certain age.

“Hands,” with music by Jewel, asks the audience to find meaning in and connection to the world around us. “If the whole 13.8 billion-year history of the universe was laid out and scaled to the length of a football field … our part of that field, the entire history of human beings, takes up the span of one adult human hand.”

So, knowing this, one might question why would people ever even get out of bed? Although I think that the better question might be: What do we do with that hand?”

In a section that Bob Fosse would love, the dancers explore their hands, connection to each other and to the world and, indeed, “what we do with that hand.”

Tobias was back again, exploring her relationship with her twin sister and how that shaped her life. Evelia Fernandez danced about her father and hiding emotions; Sara Delorena danced about leaving her mother and alcoholic stepfather; Denise Odenwalder talked about a ring challenge; and a “Sand” solo, with music by Nathan Lanier, was danced by Irem Sogutlugil.

By the end of the show, the dancers had drawn the audience into their very personal worlds and let them see how their experiences have shaped — and are shaping — their lives.

The show runs a little over an hour and is a good way to spend an afternoon.

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