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Company Ea Sola

'Drought and Rain, Vol. 2'

by Becca Hirschman

February 6, 2008 -- Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

Generally, the thought of Vietnam might bring to mind hot, flavorful pho, communism, and Lyndon Johnson, but modern dance and performance art probably don’t surface. Company Ea Sola’s “Drought and Rain, Vol.2” may change your mind.

Sola left Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam War and lived in Paris for about a decade, where she explored movement in both formal and informal settings. Focusing on war and the responsibility and effects it has on individuals and a people as a whole, Sola incorporates dance, live music and vocals, projected images and text, and props, creating a multi-dimensional and potent 45 minutes of theater. Her dancers come from the Vietnam Opera Ballet of Hanoi, and while without strong technique in traditional ballet and modern dance, they moved effectively enough, tiptoeing like a knock-kneed little child early on and, by the end, fully engrossing their entire bodies in Sola’s ideas and concept.

One of the most powerful images came when the dancers presented portraits of those touched by war. A scorching red glow fired down from above, and 16 hands, palms side up, reached out. There’s blood painted on these hands. Even if they didn’t cause, participate in, or support war itself, everyone is connected to war. And this is what Sola’s work is ultimately getting at. How do we treat war? How much responsibility do we have for our community’s present, past, and future actions? And how do we emotionally process this into our own consciousness?

Sola says that her choreographic approach is “like an animal. I don’t have a lot of thinking, but a lot of feeling.” The eight dancers gesture, shake, pause, and walk. The women’s hair flies naturally as they slide and lunge, looking uniform in their black tops and pants, as the men jump about in colorful pants, shirts, and shorts. There’s rarely interaction between their bodies, adding a feeling of solitude, and there’s a definite end game in sight. The laid-back structure may seem muddled in certain moments, but what Sola lacks in choreographic structure and traditional dance-making, she and her dancers make up for in heart and effort.

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