Strictly Seattle Bursts with Enthusiasm

Written by Mariko Nagashima
Kate Wallich’s Teen Dream
Photo by Tim Summers 
 From beginners to professionals, Strictly Seattle embraces them all, giving each dancer an opportunity to show the sheer joy and power of movement regardless of technical ability. A 3-week intensive at VelocityDanceCenter, Strictly Seattle culminated with a performances at Broadway Performance Hall this Friday and Saturday July 27and 28, 2012.
Look of Love, choreographed by Kristin Hapke and performed by the beginning track of dancers (some of whom were making their stage debut!), opened the show. An eclectic group, they seemed timid at first, but soon lost any trace of shyness as they grooved, rolled, leapt, and swayed as if in a tropical breeze. Set to classic tunes like Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” and Leo Sayer’s “Dance the Night Away,” it felt like the best part of a good wedding reception. It takes serious courage to get up and perform, or take a 3-week dance intensive for that matter, as a beginner, and these fledgling dancers looked triumphant, unbridled enthusiasm radiating from their every shimmy.

Choreographer Kate Wallich made a strong showing with Teen Dream performed by a cadre of dancers clad in a rainbow of oversized t-shirts and calf-high socks. Thumping bass by sound designer Lena Simon provided a growing sense of tension as the piece unfolded into a study of repeated and minutely evolving movements. A slight bouncing on the balls of the feet gradually became small hops back and forth, which became bounding leaps, the group a synchronized herd of gazelles. This cyclical slow motion climax tended toward monotony after a while; the most interesting moments occurred when one or several dancers broke from the pack into full bodied movement of abrupt direction changes, football-like shuffles, and intricate gestures. Themes of teenage popularity emerged as one girl stood apart from the group, imitating them before crumbling to the floor. In the end, she is shunned as the others slowly rotate, raising their fists in the solidarity of their own coolness.

Entropia by Tonya Lockyer
Photo by Tim Summers
In Entropia, choreographed by Tonya Lockyer, the dancers quoted the iconic opening of Balanchine’s Serenade; showed the myriad possibilities of forward locomotion as they walked, crawled, slid, and rolled across the floor; and passed a microphone down their line asking random questions like “How was your hair?” and “Can sex be romantic?” (Answers: “It was wet,” and “Depends on the position.”) Fun and funny, this eccentric pieced riffed on everything from the Olympics to modern entertainment, in a whirl of energy and excitement.

If Wallich’s work defined the lines of cool, Amy O’Neal’s Don’t Disturb the Warrior revealed the definition of swagger. Each dancer fully embodied their own persona whether it was a sword-wielding ninja made gigantic with shadows, a diva bumping and grinding with a heavy gold chain around her neck, or a guy with headphones popping and locking to his own rhythms. With fearless commitment they executed O’Neal’s mixture of hard hitting hip hop with little pockets of contemporary dance, the occasional battement interspersed with snaking body rolls and booty shakes.

The most traditional and technical piece of the evening, Corvidae, by Mary Sheldon Scott, featured a flock of women in sheer black dresses, attempting to take flight. Crooked elbows, stork-like walks, and turned in knees, all suggested the awkward grace of the crow family referenced in the title, but much of the movement was reminiscent of the insect world as well. In one section, trios of dancers oozed through partnered poses where one always seemed suspended in the web of limbs created by the other two. All highly proficient dancers, the performers’ clean lines glowed in the golden light designed by Amiya Brown, and they radiated a calm professionalism.

eleven. by Zoe Scofield
Photo by Tim Summers
The stand-out piece of the evening was clearly Zoe Scofield’s eleven. Set to Ravel’s “Bolero,” the work built on itself in concert with the music’s crescendo. In a striking image, the eleven women began on the floor, their legs spread in a straddle, accumulating a phrase of sharply gestural arm movements while alternately bending their knees, inching their pelvises forward. Their flesh-colored unitards, dyed deep blue up to the knees, created the illusion of upright torsos bobbing in a sea of undulating blue waves. Structurally complex, the choreography ranged from deep plies, to statuesque poses, to break neck running before sliding dramatically to the floor. A marathon piece performed with considerable zeal, eleven. stayed engaging throughout making it the most cohesive and intriguing choreographic statement of the evening. 

Though Velocity’s Strictly Seattle featured excellent dancing and sophisticated choreography, one of its greatest accomplishments was drawing a new crowd of people to dance. Because it is a program open to all levels, there were novices both onstage and in the audience. The palpable enjoyment radiated from the stage was captivating and will hopefully inspire some to become regular patrons of dance performances in the future.