Preview: The Council

Written by Mariko Nagashima

The New Animals in rehearsal for The Council 
Photo by Kenneth Shook
The New Animals, directed by Markeith Wiley, are just that, a new breed of dance innovators. The name derived from Wiley’s desire to “cross-pollinate my training as a dancer, from street dancing, to going to Cornish, and training elsewhere. [I’m] meshing everything together to form a ‘new animal.’” Wiley first experimented with this fusion style in a quartet he presented in the Men in Dance Festival in the fall of 2010. Fluid and complex, this initial foray into hip hop and modern’s synergistic qualities was highly successful. SeattleDances writer Steve Ha dubbed it “acrobatic and unpolluted by narrative…a limitless adventure in pure movement.” This adventure has continued for the past year and half, and Wiley will be presenting The Council, his first full concert in this new movement vein, this weekend, March 9 and 10, 2012 at 8 pm at the Annex Theater.

The idea for The Council came from “playing with sports coats, making movement with [them], and staying true to hip hop movement vocabulary as much as possible.” Originally titled “The City Council,” this held a bit of nostalgia for Wiley. “When I was younger, my group of friends called ourselves ‘the city council’ and would meet at places around LA to break dance and rap.” Wanting to bring this idea to Seattle, Wiley made a piece for 12 Minutes Max under this title. Tim Smith-Stewart, a writer and friend of Wiley’s saw the piece and the two decided to collaborate and add words to the work. As the piece evolved it become more about “hierarchy and the formation of power structures that will crumble, eventually to be replaced by new power structures.”

Though Wiley and Smith-Stewart attended city council meetings to use some of the jargon in the text, Wiley didn’t want it to be labeled “city council” because it’s not a political piece. “Power structures exist everywhere but it doesn’t mean it’s politics,” he says. Dropping the “city” from the title left more room for interpretation. “It could be a council of tractor owners. But it’s really a group of people who sit and decide stuff for a larger group of people.” Wiley likes the transition the piece made. “It came from a near and dear place and became something that everyone could relate to as opposed to being something esoteric.”

The Council will be presented on the Annex Theater’s intimate stage. Wiley chose this particular venue as a way of highlighting the theatrical aspects of the work. “The story allows the audience to dive deeper into the world that is The Council.” The theater provides a full immersive effect because it “is a very unconventional dance space. You can see everyone’s faces and they can see your face. The fourth wall is broken immediately.” The New Animals will present The Council this Friday and Saturday at 8 pm. Also on the bill is “Talk Show Host” presented by BOOM! Theater Co. Tickets are available at http://www.annextheatre.org/tag/markeith-wiley/