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Two Bay Area artists offer sneak peaks at provocative and poignant work.

“Works in progress” can be a dreaded phrase, suggesting half-baked ideas, incomplete artistic thoughts, and unedited drafts. Yet within a three-hour showcase of nearly twenty Bay Area choreographers at ODC Commons, two particular excerpts proved to be enticing samples of developing work.

“Magnus Dreams,” a character study by Ledoh and Salt Farm as part of a larger work entitled “Suicide Barrier,” offers a glimpse into a world where danger lurks at every corner and just beneath the surface. Ledoh, dressed in a white suit with face painted a matching shade, pushes a chair slowly forward. He lurches stiffly ahead, turning toward the audience, revealing a large white daisy that obscures his mouth.

His uniform suggests a clown, his eyes express something playful and mischievous, yet the images on the screen behind him point to the many situations in life that are laced with risk, from electrical fences to credit cards, those brutal pieces of plastic that can do so much harm.

A young, beautiful woman fills the screen, smiling and laughing. She licks her hand and moves it down her body, barely covered by black lace. Ledoh, facing away from the audience, begins to touch himself. What had thus far been a relatively harmless introduction to a seemingly friendly character becomes uncomfortably erotic. The audience is no longer merely an observer – the relationship has become voyeuristic. And no one can look away. Who in the studio wasn’t at least tempted to see where this work goes next?

Amar Tabor Smith and Sherwood Chen offered their excerpt-in-progress “Up to Know Good.” On the screen behind them, the camera follows a pair of feet climbing stairs while on the stage below Chen meanders toward Smith who stands center stage, palms and eyes facing up.

A woman speaks: “And then it goes…” which ignites a series of aggressive foot stomps and periodic jolts through their bodies. Meanwhile, arrows and graphs populate the screen, which pairs nicely with the casual, rambling voiceover about the difficulties men and women face in connecting with one another.

The showcase featured several uses of film coupled with live dance. Many of these efforts felt superfluous, or distracted from the live performers. Smith and Chen use video well, giving a visual map of their ideas in a simple, straightforward way.

Those sharp, linear images on screen soon morph into flowing curves and unfold into networks of branches as the music and the relationship between the dancers take on a softer tone. Smith and Chen paint a humorous portrait of a modern couple, complicated and also enhanced by technology, that feels genuine and inviting. As the work continues to take shape, it will be a pleasure to see this relationship evolve.

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