Katy Hagelin Freshens Perspective Through Technical Elegance

Written by Carla María Negrete Martínez

Katy Hagelin Dance Project
Photo by Alayna Brenchley
Katy Hagelin has been choreographing in Seattlefor a number of years now. Drawing on her national and international (Japan, Indonesia, Ukraine, Vienna, and many more) touring experience, she is known to bring together dancers from across the country. While most of  her dancers are originally from out-of-state, Courtney Dressner was her only visiting artist for her Summer Works show, held at VelocityDanceCenteron August 23 and 24. Her company also hosted guest choreographers Kristen Legg, Jennifer Porter, and Jonathan Hansen for this project, which was created in the span of a week.

The concert opened with Legg’s Retrograde 92. All dancers wore fall colored leotards that accentuated the striking long balletic lines of company members Sylvain Boulet, Dressner, and Hagelin, and guest dancers Jenna Eady and Mary Kirkpatrick. Marked by quick changes of weight and sharp extensions with abrupt distortions of classical ballet vocabulary, Legg’s choreography followed the fast tempo of Bach’s compositions. A motif throughout Retrograde 92 was a subtle gesture in which each dancer framed their face and then reached out their hand, giving something—possibly their soul—away. The piece as a whole seemed to be a regression through snapshot memories, each surfacing calmly and then simply given away.

Hansen’s Dissociation Sequelae was divided into three sections with music by Essay & Coma, Clocks & Clouds, and Phillip Glass. Dancers Victoria McConnell, Megan Becker, and Hagelin explored the space around them, and, transfixed by their unknown environment, walked slowly–eerily–toward the audience. Clad in ruffled white dresses, the piece seemed to allude to life after death. Yet moments of explosive leaps took away from the work, as they felt disconnected from the theme. Drums marked the transition to the second section; anguished and jerky vibrating dancing replaced the previous serenity. The literacy of their suffering, depicted through dramatic displays of sobbing on the floor, became overwhelming, and suggested that instead of paradise they had found purgatory. Later, to Glass’ “Facades,” the performers covered their faces with white scarves. Moving blindly about the stage, they resembled ghosts lost between worlds. While keeping true to theme, the piece would have benefited from perhaps a subtler display of emotion.

Hansen also choreographed Sincere Satisfaction, a solo performed by Dressner to a song with lyrics, He is We’s “Pardon Me.” This piece portrayed struggle as well, yet was lighthearted and referenced the difficulty of keeping true to one’s identity. Dressner never appeared to be comfortable in the fluid motions; instead she bounced and charged through space with leaps and pulsating limbs, like a young person consistently in the quest to find herself. While the lyrics provided choreographic inspiration, at times they seemed to overpower the dance, as was seen when Dressner kicked in synchronization to the word “kick.”

All the Ways Home was a trio choreographed by Porter to Max Richter’s musical composition. Mariko Nagashima, Dressner, and Boulet were a strong technical group of performers in this abstract contemporary ballet piece. Nagashima’s calm and genuine performance underlined her elegant fluid lines, while Boulet executed gorgeous leaps. The work seemed to reference life choices and the different paths taken through it on the journey to find home.

The final work of the evening, Hagelin’s Waiting Room broke the overarching grief that was present throughout the concert. The performers illustrated the time spent waiting in a doctor’s office, or perhaps, as Hagelin suggests in her program notes, ”the waiting room of the heart.” Through quirky theatricality, the craziness that occurs in each person’s mind became evident. Hagelin has a knack for threading movement that combines the fluidity of ballet, the groundedness of modern, and the sharpness of popping and locking. With the aid of Kodomo’s music her piece resembled a video game. Hagelin’s fun choreography breathes fresh air into the Seattledance scene and her beautifully technical company should not be missed in their coming shows.