Inspiring New Works at NEXT Dance Cinema

Written by Kristen Legg

(Photo: KT Niehoff’s film Parts Don’t Work)
Eight dance films were presented December 12, 2011 at the Northwest Film Forum as part of NEXT Fest NW. While each were unique, there were multiple underlying themes: brokenness, nature, and all-knowingness, to name a few. Each film had at least one moment where a dancer stared off past the camera and into the unknown. Many of the works featured reverse motion editing, where the dancers seemed to writhe about, pulled by an invisible tether. All of the works were enhanced by the uniqueness of “movie theatre” sound—a soundtrack to accompany the dancers. But for all that these works had in common, each offered a glimpse into its own private universe. 

Jody Kuehner’s rift valley, was a humorous film. Even so, Kuehner’s confused looks into the camera, her staggering toward and away from the screen, and the unstable movement she performed due to high heels and an unkempt outdoor terrain, left the audience unsure if laughter had been the right choice earlier. Kuehner’s theatricality and poise came through exquisitely, as always, in this “gender-bending bonanza.”
The next work of the evening, Parts Don’t Work by KT Niehoff, showed an exciting side of the Seattle dance scene’s obsession with things that are off-kilter and quirky. Go-go boot-wearing girls danced stilted and over-exaggerated movements in the Fun Forest at Seattle Center, while Bianca Cabrera danced a contorted solo, flinging herself beautifully to the Bumper Car ride floor. In one wonderful moment, Niehoff’s trio of bad girls is offered cigarettes. Wearing large cardboard mouths over their real mouths, the girls try to inhale, to no avail.

Pacific Northwest Ballet videographer, Lindsey Thomas, presented Cylindrical Shadows, in which PNB members performed an excerpt of Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s work of the same name (to be premiered in March 2012). In this film, performers Andrew Bartee, Laura Gilbreath, Kylee Kitchens, Kaori Nakamura, Lucien Postlewaite, Price Suddarth, Ezra Thomson, and Jerome Tisserand executed gestural phrases in perfect unison, each stepping out for a released solo or duet. A quiet film in energy and tone, it was disappointing how quickly it was over. 

(Shannon Stewart in The Third Floor
© Tim Summers.)
Shannon Stewart and Adam Sekuler presented their collaboration, Third Floor/This Phosphorescent. Utilizing reverse motion editing, Steward tweaked and jerked her way through an abandoned hotel. Although labeled as a premiere, this video was seen at Velocity’s season opener this past fall, accompanied by live performance by Stewart. Having the film stand alone allowed for new surprises and stunning moments to shine through. 

Perhaps the strongest short of the night came from Corrie Befort. Cut Chalk featured six youthful Seattle dancers and a handful of musicians who created a beautiful soundscape to accompany the work. Befort used live recording and over-laid rhythmic clapping to create a dynamic score, which complemented the undulating clump of performers. The contained movement in this work lent itself stunningly to the tight camera shots.

In a very different vein was Shawn Telford’s Kubota Flower, a video featuring Seattle Burlesque dancer Lily Verlaine. Set in the Kubota Gardens, this film seemed a bit less “dance” and more visual art. The scenes Telford imagined for camera were breathtaking.

Amy O/tinyrage presented Off the Grid, based on a live performance from director Amy O’Neal’s prior repertory. Filmed at midnight in a field, this piece had an eerie quality, sometimes skirting on campy. While moments of this farm-style hip-hop seemed too Blair Witch Project, other images had lasting intensity and beauty. The core of dancers performed much of the work on a dirt-covered floor, the particles perfectly lit around this group of powerful performers—bodies and dust floating in slow motion.

The last piece of the evening was created by Marissa Rae Niederhauser of Josephine’s Echopraxia. Tracingswas a solo work starring Niederhauser, in which she explored a run-down farmhouse. The post-production on this work created dynamics not seen in the other films of the evening. Ghostly images of the dancer, color correction, and instant scene changes allowed the viewer to feel pulled from place to place, just as the dancer was. Niederhauser’s timeless beauty added such elegance and maturity to Tracings.
Many of these works can be seen online.
rift valley: http://vimeo.com/31059329
Parts Don’t Work: http://lingodance.com/stage/parts-dont-work/(slide show)
Cylindrical Shadows: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kdb5GvVsxPw
Third Floor/This Phosphorescent: http://vimeo.com/32956256
Kubota Flower: http://vimeo.com/29709226
Tracings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqE06VkslBo(trailer)