Photo by Chelsea Rowe

KUNST-STOFF review: farewell, with the usual flair

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Kunst-Stoff''s Yannis Adoniou in Tomi Paasonen's "Those Golden  Years." Kunst-Stoff is celebrating its 15th anniversary at ODC Theater.  Photo by Tomi Paasonen. Photo: Tomi Paasonen., Kunst-Stoff Dance

KUNST-STOFF's Yannis Adoniou in Tomi Paasonen's "Those Golden Years." KUNST-STOFF is celebrating its 15th anniversary at ODC Theater. Photo by Tomi Paasonen.

In dance circles, when a company announces a retrospective, it's often to cover up the fact that it's not making a lot of new work these days. But the dance-theater troupe Kunst-Stoff came by last weekend's 15-year retrospective at ODC Theater honestly.

The company, which is the brainchild of Yannis Adoniou and Tomi Paasonen, and has made genre-defying pieces since it was founded in 1998, is leaving the area - at least for the near future - to concentrate its activities in Europe whence its creators came.

Kunst-Stoff (which translates to the material of art) has won a host of admirers for good reasons. Most groups have been unable to meld dance and theater so confidently. This pair has made works that seemed like inquiries into the hidden recesses of our lives. They were sophisticated in the worlds of music and dance; they resorted to casual nudity and made it seem natural. They knew how to reach audiences in the ways that count, and they never underestimated their fans.

It seemed a brilliant idea to anchor Friday's program with the premiere of "98-13," Adoniou's version of a Merce Cunningham "Event." This anthology piece jimmied together sequences from at least five works, not least of them Adoniou's sophisticated update of Fokine's pastel masterpiece, "Les Sylphides." At the opening of the piece, the choreographer presided at a laptop, and only after the six performers had charmed the audience with spoken and danced fragments did he step front and center for an elegant solo that seemed a tribute to his own powers of invention.

Even with bits torn from context, much of "98-13" was comprehensible. At one moment, women leap over a table; then a pair of women references "Les Sylphides." Later, two dancers wrestle in a box; a dancer squeezes herself into tight jeans. Daiane Lopes da Silvaintroduces herself in Portuguese; Parker Murphy translates. Everyone offers oral autobiographies. An audience member peels a banana for a hungry dancer, which she avidly consumes.

It sounds banal, perhaps, but this crew brings off these pedestrian gambits with such flair and good cheer that you find yourself fascinated. The other participants were Katie GaydosLindsey Renee DerryJulia Stiefel and Leyya Tawil.

The evening opened and closed with acts of birth and rebirth. In the 2008 "Solo for Yannis," Paasonen and Adoniou, with Weidon Yang and Ivo Serra, all kneeling, witness what looks like the hatching of da Silva, who as we enter the auditorium, lies, crumpled on a carpet of Astroturf. Accompanied by Jethro de Hart's minimalist guitar score, this undifferentiated mass of white struggles to rise, exposes her face and anatomy, deflects challenges by the men, and ultimately finds herself naked, confronting the void.

Paasonen fashioned the closer, "Those Golden Years," in Berlin in 2012. Yuko Matsuyamaforges her way through a floor of metallic gold sheeting and conjures a musique concrète score, while a limb, then two, then all of the naked Adoniou frees himself from the mass of tinsel and proceeds to construct a cape, a suit and a sleeping bag from this material. This is physical theater at its most deft and amiable and represents what Kunst-Stoff was all about.


Published 5:30 pm, Sunday, November 10, 2013

Allan Ulrich is The San Francisco Chronicle's dance correspondent