$plitBill Defines The Beginning of Things

Written by Irene E. Beausoleil

Sean B. Cormack in $plit Bill
Photo by Joseph Lambert
To find oneself, rather to define oneself, is to distill all that is most compelling and vital to you into a single, comprehensible idea. It is at once unfair and rewarding, as is this review, which only allows the chance to provide highlights from the self-defining performances by choreographic newcomers Amanda Oie and Sean Cormack.

”Newcomers” is something of a misnomer as both Cormack and Oie have been Seattle dancers for some time. However, $plitBill World Premier at VelocityDanceCenteron September 28, 2012, was their official debut as independent artists and creators. Both dancers studied at Cornish College of The Arts and it is no surprise that they paid tribute to their alma mater in their first foray into the world of professional choreography.

A genuine vulnerability and sense of self-awareness were constant elements throughout the evening’s performance, as was a conscious use of spatial and rhythmic tension. Oie launched the program with her solo, Witch 2 Bitch, set to an original piano composition by Megan Larson. Oie began by spinning her spells from a seated posture as a blue cowl-covered crone who gradually rose from the floor to become a slinky and bewitching beauty. Characterized by her supple wrists and use of Flamenco dance vocabulary, the solo eventually evolved to portray a youthful maid, kicking and bounding from one corner of the room to the next. Enticing and coy, it set the tone for an evening of competent and capable performances.

Sean B. Cormack and Christine Abdale in $plit Bill
Photo by Joseph Lambert
In keeping with Oie’s fantastic use of spatial patterns, Cormack followed her solo with a dynamic duet featuring the negative space between bodies. Cormack demonstrated his talent for seamless transitions, leading the eye to notice how often the couple pulled from each other despite an obvious desire to connect. Moments of suspension and extension lent a narrative to the piece, which was loving, regretful, and full of lost opportunities. The piece ended with a tender dismissal after a series of pulling rolls and a literal head-butt, bringing a sense of autonomy to the dance.

The evening continued in a similar vein giving freshness to such universal concepts as the feminine stereotype, the desire for strength in the face of adversity, and the magic of unconditional acceptance. Each piece had a unique story to tell, especially Cormack’s group work, (Play)Cate, which was reminiscent of a slumber party gone desperately wrong. Featuring a group of women in black stockinged feet and pink button-down shirts, the dance began with a party atmosphere that was interrupted by a static beauty queen (played by Oie) dressed in a pink ball gown. This piece exemplified Cormack’s use of rhythmic tension by contrasting repeated gestures at different speeds, showing the dancers as more than simple automatons who compared their assets in a tragic catwalk-style display.  

The evening concluded with a sweeping tribute to the power of love with Oie’s group work, Warts and All. Featuring two couples dressed in 1960’s era house clothes, the dance examined the significance of unqualified support and devotion. The piece transcended time and space and felt applicable to anyone in a committed relationship. Free and unbound movement with a strong sense of breath and a meandering spatial pattern evoked feelings of nostalgia and fond memories. The dancers said to each other and the audience, “What you see is what you get.”
If what was seen at this debut is what Seattlecan expect from Oie and Cormack, then future showings should be explorative, inspired, and full of personal significance. Supported by excellent technique and dynamic use of narrative elements, these two young choreographers show promising potential to show every audience member something about themselves they didn’t know before.