Velocity’s Bridge Project Delivers Some Hits, Some Misses

Written by Anne Lawrence
(Photo: Rachel Grant’s Hail Mary for the Millennials 
Photo by Tim Summers)
The Bridge Project is one of VelocityDanceCenter‘s longest running and most valuable programs. Each October, emerging choreographers—and established choreographers new to Seattle—can apply for a Bridge Project residency in January. Each choreographer selected for a residency creates a new work in only three weeks, using a cast chosen through an open audition process. Velocity provides free rehearsal space, technical support, and artistic guidance. The completed works are then presented in a show produced by Velocity. In this way, the Bridge Project creates bridges between emerging choreographers, dancers, and audience members. Not every work presented in the final showings is a huge success, but usually at least one work each year is rewarding. This year two works were especially fine.

MaryAnn McGovern’s SPRAWL Part 2 made it clear that McGovern is a choreographer to watch. She’s a Chicago native who recently moved to Seattle. As its title suggests, SPRAWL Part 2 represents the further development of ideas McGovern began exploring in the Midwest. The nominal subject of the work is urban sprawl. That might sound like an unpromising idea for a dance, but for McGovern, it’s just a springboard into something more abstract and ultimately quite moving. The work began with a quartet of female principal dancers performing a coordinated sequence of turns, spirals, and handstands with an inwardly directed focus. They were then joined by a community cast of nine dancers—think Greek chorus—who loudly announced the names, founding dates, and early population figures for several Puget Sound cities (“Kent”; “Issaquah”; “Seattle”) and later the 2010 population figures for those same cities. The community cast also gave directions to the quartet (“Grow”; “Extend”; “Disregard”; “Isolate”; “Displace”); some of these directions seemingly were enacted, at least in part, as the quartet continued to perform its movements. Eventually the focus of the quartet dancers became more external, their movements became bigger, and various community cast members began moving in unison with them. All this was accompanied by well chosen musical selections, culminating in a piece by Zoe Keating. By the end of the work, everyone was moving in unison, and it became evident that McGovern had crafted nothing less than a metaphor for the creation of community through art in the face of mindless urban expansion. Feats of choreographic magic like this are rare and very special.

Alicia Garcia, a senior at CornishCollegeof the Arts, presented Spit Lift Shake Remember, an understated, dark-hued piece for five female dancers. Cellist Daniel Mullikin, who created the musical score, performed it each night, and reportedly played for each and every rehearsal, deserves some of the credit for the work’s success. The piece opened with Mullikin seated upstage, laying down tracks for his solo. The focus then shifted to the dancers, who began lying supine with knees raised. They turned and stretched as if awakening and gradually rose to their feet, standing side-by-side in a single line. They seemed to have awakened to some gruesome reality or memory, however, because they proceeded to grimace, contract, shake, and ripple in not-quite unison, with exacting slowness and bound energy. This movement was punctuated by interludes in which each dancer broke from unison and was lifted or otherwise partnered by one or more of her peers. The movement was juicy and emotionally engaging, and Garcia made good use of the expressive capabilities of her dancers, especially the remarkable Lorraine Lau. Garcia stated that she loves to choreograph partnering; perhaps she should push her desires in this area further still. Garcia will present another new work in the Cornish BFA show next month; it should be very much worth checking out.

Rachel Grant’s Hail Mary for the Millennials was less successful. Much of Grant’s movement vocabulary was, literally and figuratively, pedestrian: Her cast mostly walked in unison in 12-step, clockwise circles, facing forward, over and over and over again. One of Grant’s dancers described this movement as hypnotic to perform; unfortunately, it quickly became uninteresting to watch. Occasionally a dancer would break out of the pack to shake an upraised hand, make a wry face, or inspect the torso of a fellow dancer. Most of the sound score consisted of a contrived and irritating faux voice-message recording, ostensibly addressed to Grant herself and dealing with debt collection. Toward the end, this was mercifully replaced by excerpts from recordings of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s Sixteen Tons (1955) and Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land (1944)—according to Grant, music from the Great Depression that alluded to current economic conditions. Overall, Grant’s work felt perplexing and not very satisfying.

(Alice Gosti’s Intermezzo 
Photo by Tim Summers) 
Alice Gosti’s Spaghetti CO. – Intermezzo seemed to be a continuation of the approach she utilized in Are You Still Hungry? at NW New Works in June 2011. That approach involved assembling a group of talented dancers and creating a messy, chaotic spectacle centered on them; actual dancing was deemphasized, if not absent altogether. The messiness in Are You Still Hungry? was created with spaghetti, tomato sauce, and red wine, which the dancers threw and spat at each other. The messiness in Intermezzo was created by sprinkling the dancers liberally with flour as they sat on or around an overstuffed chair in the lobby at Velocity, whereupon they decamped to the auditorium, trailing flour in their wake. In Intermezzo, unlike Are You Still Hungry?, some of the dancers briefly engaged in some actual dancing. They also performed an a cappella rendition of TLC’s Creep, to no discernable purpose. Sadly, Intermezzo seemed like a terrible waste of a fine cast—and of an opportunity to create a dance work of real substance. Gosti is capable of making much better work than this. She should stop cooking up tasteless spaghetti and devise a new recipe.

2 comments

  1. Were you at the same show as the rest of us? From the audience reaction it was clear that each of the pieces was unique and creative. You may have also missed the point of the BRIDGE project: to cultivate and encourage young artists. Next time leave your seat open for someone that was left waiting outside the door to this sold-out weekend.

  2. I know this show was several weeks ago now, but I responded so differently to this show, and in particular to Rachel Grant’s piece, that I feel I must at least represent a second opinion. I commend Anne Lawrence for being brave enough to make evaluative statements (while I love Seattle Dances, most reviews on the site are too polite to do anything more than describe the work) however I couldn’t disagree more. Grant’s work “Hail Mary for the Millennials” was very successful on a number of levels. The sound score was very thought provoking choice–a debt collection message that was so bizarre and drawn out I was hanging on every word. Not to mention that it being specifically addressed to Rachel Grant left the choreographer exposed and vulnerable in a way that felt like she was sharing something very personal. She actually used the animatronic voice as music (not just background) and the dancing emphasizing the strange in-human rhythm of the recording (dancers actually dancing with the sound score?? In Seattle?? Wha….?) I loved it. I am so shocked that this sound score could be called “contrived” while half of the pieces in the show featured looped cello music. I mean, I love me some Zoe Keating, but that music is so powerful, it carries along even mediocre choreography (ex. McGovern’s SPRAWL–sorry, but I was having serious college freshman piece flashbacks during that piece.)
    I found the use of repetition and in particular the repetitive walking (far from boring–entrancing! I could have watched it all night) really drove home some of the themes at play here regarding work, debt, system, and society. All the while these themes were allowed to accumulate in a way that felt clear and articulate without feeling like I was being spoon-fed the message (again see SPRAWL). Grant’s crazy faces and rebellious behavior spoke to me about the expectation of behavior, the mold we don’t all fit, maybe the people we have to become to get along in this world. My point is, this piece was effective, maybe not perfect by any means, but it moved me. Even just talking about what I got from it polarizes and de-nuances the piece in a way I don’t like, so I will just say that I liked Grant’s choices, and I thought credit should be given where credit is due. Also on that note, Alice piece was good, just felt like a snippet of something yet to be completed, and I don’t think that’s something to be critical of.
    P.S. Hey Anonymous. Yes, I imagine many people who saw the show disagree with this review, but it isn’t fair for you to be mean just because someone expressed an opinion you don’t agree with and put their name on it. Grow up.

Comments are closed.