Dancers from ODC dance posing in front of a large window.
Amber Gott, Raychel Hatch, Lily Gee, Addison Norman, Clairey Evangelho, Jenni Hong

No particular school, troupe or organization can take credit for the Bay Area’s reputation as a hotbed for modern dance, but there’s one institution that perfectly encapsulates the way that the San Francisco dance scene effectively spots and nurtures rising choreographers. Founded in 1990, ODC’s Pilot Program has long served as an essential proving ground that offers mentoring, resources and a showcase for artists wading into the treacherous waters of dance. Of course, not all of the 350 or so people who’ve come through the program over the years have gone on to renown, but Pilot provides a path for independent creative production that would benefit many an MFA program.

With one performance Saturday (followed by an artists’ reception), and two on Sunday at ODC Theater, ODC Dance presents Pilot Program 74: REAL:FAKE, featuring six new original works (all approximately 10 minutes long) by the choreographers in this year’s cohort: Clairey Evangelho, Raychel Hatch, Jenni Hong, Lily Gee, Amber Gott and Addison Norman. 

The Pilot participants produce the event themselves, dividing up roles such as online promotion, tech liaising and graphic design. But the women faced one of the first tasks as a group, developing a conceptual framework for their show. 

A boy lying on the floor with a colorful object in his hand.
Clairey Evangelho

“We had to come up with a name that held all of our pieces, which are really different,” said Clairey Evangelho, who was tasked with marketing and publicity. “All of our pieces are sort of weirdly mirroring some aspect of ourselves. We brainstormed a lot of titles with mirrors, and then someone threw out ‘real fake,’ and everyone felt that fit. We’ll have a cake at the reception — a real cake.”

Part of what can make Pilot participation so valuable for budding choreographers is building relationships with ODC staff, particularly Kimi Okada, ODC’s associate choreographer and school director and a founding member of the ODC collective. Choreographer Lizz Roman has served as the primary Pilot mentor for years, and recently she’s been joined by São Paulo native Daiane Lopes da Silva, an educator and artistic director of Kinetech Arts

Every class is different, and Pilot 74 encompasses a wide array of experience, including Jenny Wong, a professional dancer for two decades and a dance faculty member at San Jose State, and Clairey Evangelho, who’s making her first dance. 

Encouraged to apply to the program by Roman, a creative force on the Bay Area dance scene for nearly four decades, Evangelho has leaned heavily on the mentoring process. She’s working with Lopes da Silva, but has also gotten valuable feedback from Roman, remaining undaunted despite “both mentors being really different in what they were highlighting.”

The bottom line from both was to trust her own judgment. “If I know what I want to make, I should just make it, and don’t worry it’s not ‘dancey’ enough,” Evangelho said. “Dance is the medium, but not the focus, and there’s a lot to get self-conscious about. A really big thing that Lizz stressed was that’s okay, trust what you want to make. The vision is strong. She said, ‘Keep sight of why you want to make work.’ It’s a very useful question.”

Two people from ODC doing a dance in an empty room.
Clairey Evangelho, Lily Gee

If MFA programs are notorious for sending graduates out into the world ill-equipped to support themselves and produce new works outside the resource-rich confines of campus, the Pilot Program offers nuts-and-bolts skills in putting on a show. Roman, who studied theatrical production in college, has long emphasized the importance of learning about every facet of producing a dance event. 

She remembers when there were other showcases that provided training for budding choreographers, “but those programs don’t make you money,” and are often the first to get cut when budgets are tight, she said. Roman is committed to the Pilot Program “mostly because I didn’t have much mentoring,” she said. “I try to teach through how I’ve cut my own career,” particularly forging ongoing relationships with collaborators like composers, musicians and videographers. 

She had a chance to see the tech rehearsal for three dances earlier this week, and came away delighted by Evangelho’s work, “a whimsical, beautiful piece about two earthworms, one who goes out into the world and coaxes another one to come out, too,” Roman said.

More than an educational process, making her first dance has provided Evangelho with a wide angle view of the production process, taking an abstract idea and bringing it to the stage. “I’ve got the knowledge to do it again, which is very empowering,” she said, though she admitted that she’s also contemplated making this her last dance.  

“I’ve had moments where I’m never doing it again,” she said. “But we had the tech rehearsal and it went well. I was working three jobs for most of this, so it’s been a very crazy time in my life. I’ll be taking a rest after this, but now I’m thinking I definitely will be making work, and I’ve met so many people within the ODC system that could help make that possible.” 

Friday at The Chapel

YouTube video

Oakland-based Orchestra Gold, a group devoted to the fuzzed-out psychedelic sound of 1970s Malian funk, plays the opening set Friday at The Chapel in support of Jamaican dub master Scientist. “But what’s even more amazing is that Scientist is going to be mixing our Orchestra Gold set,” said multi-instrumentalist Erich Huffaker, who founded the group in 2018 to showcase Malian vocalist and dancer Mariam Diakitéin, who he’d met in Bamako several years earlier. “Expect primo quality sound, some amazing creativity, and dubbed-out psychedelic sonic directions that Orchestra Gold has not taken before,” he said. 

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