Full Tilt Showcases Variety of Modern Works

Written by Mariko Nagashima
Evoke Productions’ Full Tilt presented a lively and provocative evening of modern dance on their opening night this Friday at Velocity Dance Center. By sponsoring works of both veteran and emerging choreographers in the Seattle area, Evoke Productions brought together a host of talented creators and dancers in their fourth annual dance concert.
First on the diverse bill was Is Divided, by Wade Madsen. Graceful and organic, the choreography swelled with arms stretched aloft and mirrored patterns that dissolved into whirlwinds of spiraling curves. The soaring chants of Howard Goodall’s A Requiem lent the piece an almost reverential feeling. The twelve dancers glided through the movements, seeming to yearn for each other, but rarely touching. These missed connections, where dancers briefly circled one another before retreating in isolation, emerged as a continuous theme throughout the work. 

The second piece of the evening, On the Grid, was an exploration of society’s dependence on technology, specifically electricity. Choreographed by Amy O’Neal, VelocityDanceCenter’s current Choreographer in Residence, the piece was lit almost entirely by its six dancers who alternated shining flashlights on one another. In many instances the flashlights spurred movement where their beam fell, the dancers completely dependent on the light for motivation; in others they simply illuminated the shapes being made. The shadows cast on the white background combined with the dancers’ black hooded attire, and the pulsing electronic music, gave the piece a rather eerie undertone. Often rigid and geometric, the choreography sometimes appeared more a series of poses rather than one continuous phrase. In a rare moment without the flashlights, a dancer finally moved fluidly, but seemed manipulated by an invisible external force, struggling in the absence of the commanding light. The work concluded with three dancers on their backs; the other three circled them with the lights and eventually pressed the beam into their stomachs until they went dark. Though the flashlight effect had become a bit redundant by the end, this final purported internalization of technology was a thought-provoking look at where our “plugged in” society is headed.
Christin Lusk’s piece, The Light Within, also utilized alternative sources of light, but to an altogether different end than O’Neal’s. Here, the dancers were drawn to small candles lined up at the back of the stage, often hovering over them as if faltering on a precipice but entranced by the sight below. The dancers were variously comforted and desperately fascinated by their lights, but never manipulated by them. The piece began with repeated slow motion falls; the six dancers peeling themselves off the floor each time as if unable to escape the downward pull of gravity. A remarkable sense of suspension and control was retained through a series of duets.  When the music changed from the quiet static of Jonsi and Alex’s Sleeping Giant to Radiohead’s Go Slowly, the energy shifted palpably. Urgency replaced suspension, but Lusk tempered this change with moments of stillness that kept the work grounded throughout.
Next came Can’t Hold Me Down choreographed by Marlo Martin. In it Martin examined the potential destructiveness inherent in relationships and the choices people make.
In a repeated partnering sequence embodying this motif, one dancer first laid her cheek on another’s shoulder. This tender gesture disintegrated into a tormented struggle, each dancer resisting the other until they collapsed on the floor. They pushed away from each other only to embrace moments later, unable to let go of their corroded relationship. Visceral and emotive, Martin’s choreography layered dynamic full body steps and small gestural movements with an undercurrent of pulsing intensity. In the end, the dancers stood scattered across the stage, each one lashing out against some internal struggle, conflicted in their solitude as much as in their relationships.
The show concluded with Nancy Cranbourne’s Please LoveMe. An homage to Salt-N-Pepa and Prince, the dancers shooped and shimmied wearing every color of neon imaginable. Complete with moves from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video and too many pelvic thrusts to count, this was more a raucous 80s revival than modern dance, but was highly entertaining nonetheless. The dancers embodied the over-the-top style of the decade with big hair and exaggerated faces as they mimed and lip-synched the lyrics to Push It and Shoop. Cranbourne herself treated the audience to her rendition of Hot Thingin a solo where she boogied and grooved in an attempt to seduce one of the two males in the cast. A definite crowd-pleaser, this was the perfect finale, lightening the mood after the more introspective pieces earlier in the show.
Full Tilt continues Saturday, May 21, with shows at 7 and 9 PM at VelocityDanceCenter. Tickets are available in advance through brownpapertickets.com as well as at the door.