Heather Olson’s “Shy Showoff” at the Chocolate Factory

Dancer and choreographer Heather Olson.

Dancer and choreographer Heather Olson, a long-time performer with both Tere O’Connor and Yanira Castro, has a vaguely doll-like face. I’m not sure why this stands out in my mind, but it does. Somehow, it adds yet another subtle layer of enjoyment to her new work Shy Showoff, at the Chocolate Factory through Sept. 24. The title pretty efficiently delineates the polarities the work bounces between, and all I can say is that somehow, Olson’s innocent expression adds something to the end of a cheeky little phrase, when she glances past the audience, perhaps on all fours, before crawling off behind a screen.

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect going in on Wednesday, but I left impressed, and not just by Olson’s clever and subtle sense of humor shining through the choreography. The show isn’t fast-paced, but it races by in short sequences that veer between introverted and extroverted, vulnerability and glee in exposure. The piece features three dancers–Olson, visibly pregnant, is joined by Levi Gonzalez and Erin Gerken, all in matching light-gray tones. Olson more often than not performs solo, or in a trio, while Gonzalez and Gerken pair off for segments. The movement switches between abstract choreography and natural movement, leaving the crew shifting between syncronized movement and crawling across the floor. On one wall, text–more often than not absurd or contradictory–is occasionally projected on the wall. Towards the end, it even announces a dance break. From a dance piece. Just a little taste of Olson’s wit.

Also, I can’t close without noting the sheer talent of the company. Olson is a splendid dancer, even if somewhat restrained due, no doubt, to being pregnant. But pretty much everyone I spoke to was incredibly impressed with Gerken’s performance. She has a remarkable presence, and her movement demonstrates a supreme sort of control and precision that I don’t always see. All of which is not to say that Gonzalez isn’t good–I’ve seen him before, and as always he throws himself into the role with gusto–but in this piece, at least, he’s doesn’t stand out against his fellow performers.

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