From Madrona to Downtown—Dance clobbers the City Arts Fest

Written by Christin Call
“Kate & Zoe” with Zoe/JuniperPhoto by Dan Hawkins
With secret locations and alternative venues, the City Arts Fest built up quite a buzz for the weekend’s whirlwind of dance events. It also proved to be worth the hype. Let no one say Seattle’s dance artists are not as resourceful as they are creative. The artists each developed work suited specifically for the venue in which they performed.

ZOE | JUNIPER

Surprisingly tender and personal, Kate Wallich, Zoe Scofield, and Juniper Shuey took over a contemporary home in Madrona on October 19, 2012, to present a piece carefully composed within the geometries of the house’s architecture. Kate + Zoe exuded a bittersweet nostalgia for sisterly connection. The piece unfolded first from the outside looking in through the glass front of the house. A projection of school children inside the large, square window frame played while a woman lay underneath it in the horizontal, body-size window frame. Eventually Wallich and Scofield came forward to the flanking glass doors on either side, looking contemplative and somewhat absorbed, to complete the heraldic composition. After the audience traveled through the house to the back porch, again looking in through a large glass frame, the piece unfolded through layers of video projections on the walls (and sometimes on the dancers), paper silhouette portraits of Wallich and Scofield, and the two dancers themselves moving about the house as if “cut from the same cloth.” Like paper chain dolls in white, wrinkly dresses the two came together to move in folk-like symmetry with gentle, loving touches of chin to chin tip, cheek on cheek surface, curled up on the floor neck on neck like puppies.

Wallich danced with powerful serenity, tapped in to a teeming universe of textures, tastes, and sensations expressing itself in her very fingertips. Scofield, who showed increased vulnerability dancing with Raja Kelly in Northwest New Works this past summer, found a strain of innocence inside herself, though peppered with liberal doses of child-like frustration, rebellion, and almost ecstatic spitfire. To be able to view this complexity from up close but very physically separated reinforced the sense of schism in time through memory. The beauty of this work was in the thoughtful conception of the visual vantage point of the audience, which allowed indelible visual compositions to be received with full impact.

DANIELLE AGAMI / ATE9

Ate9, Seattle’s newest dance company founded by former Batsheva Dance Company dancer Danielle Agami, took place at Vermillion Gallery in Capitol Hill on October 20, 2012. With a cast of nimble, sensitive women this cyclic piece ebbed and flowed through a series of many vignettes—dancers bobbing as if performing native-style gestures to a heavy dance beat, one woman choking another while maintaining an unphased step-tap to the music, a women blowing soap bubbles while sauntering casually down the narrow gallery.

Agami’s approach to her venue was to use it as an opportunity to interact with audience members. At one point three women came out, fixated on the space around an audience member, and felt the air as if faithfully decrypting an unknowable code. Then lowering to the floor, they each evidently had the task of holding an audience member’s hand. Dancer Erica Badgley diligently held out her hand to a man who looked at me questioningly, the look in his eyes asking for permission to “touch the art.” Other dancers had to physically pull hands out of pockets. It was worth the risk. The man put out his hand, Badgley took it, and lightly picked herself up off the floor to wander somewhere else.

There were also strong, unexpected political elements. A woman with her head bagged by an American flag wobbled frantically around the space in her underwear, three nonplussed women crept the gallery’s length while heavily chained together, and in another section dancers mouthed the national anthem to an audience member while shining a flashlight on him or her. Surrounded by art thematically dealing with the grotesqueness of taxidermy and the Arctic, the effect was non-definitive but ominous and intriguing.

LINGO PRODUCTIONS

Lingo Productions and Jill Donnelly presented a show at Baby & Co. that lasted all evening on Saturday, October 20, 2012. Though encouraged by City Arts staff that late arrival would be fine, catching only the last hour of this partial performance, partial socialite party left this reviewer confused. There was a little bit of dancing on top of a cleared sales counter and a little bit of singing by KT Niehoff herself and two others on the spiral staircase. All performers had fabulous pompadour hairdos. No one in the audience seemed to pay much attention to either kind of entertainment. Dancers in the front window could not be seen from inside the venue, which made their presence purely commercial—an advertisement. The music was charming, humorous at times, and well-sung, but there seemed to be quite a lot of tension between the non-expectations of the audience and Niehoff’s more fervent vocals. It was quite difficult to ascertain whether or not the audience’s casual behavior was intended or perhaps intended but then regretted.