Stunning Encore by Ate9

Written by Kaitlin McCarthy

Ate9 inSally meets Stu
Photo by Tim Summers
Seattleaudiences had another blip of an opportunity to catch Ate9’s performance of Sally Meets Stu Friday night, November 9, 2012 at Century Ballroom. Advertised as “Seattle’s Newest Dance Company,” Ate9 is the outlet for the creative genius of Israeli-born dance artist Danielle Agami, who was a member of the world-renowned Batsheva Dance Company for 8 years before relocating to the United States. Sally Meets Stu premiered in August, and you can read the SeattleDances review of that first performance here.

Twelve dancers comprise Ate9, including Agami, who hail from Seattle and across the country. As the piece begins in slow unison, each dancer’s exquisite differences are brought keenly into focus. From within the seeming sea of dancers, Seattle’s Sarah Butler performs a solo displaying quick-fire flexibility and balance, before upbeat music breaks the mood and fast, layered dance sequences begin. The material is a mix of gestural and highly technical, with complex rhythms and unexpected physicalities. It is unusual to see technical dance that is still interesting—that feels like more than a just series of impressive tricks. The kinetic energy is also sheer joy to watch, and the fast pace is returned to multiple times throughout the performance. Later, theatrical elements are introduced. Nadav Heyman casually tells the audience the story of how Sally met Stu, and then another possible version of the story, and then another. Each have wildly different endings, but all are bitter and tragic, infused with dark humor. The stories are accompanied by dance sequences that at times illustrate and at times contrast, bringing a thoughtful subtext to the stories. At one point Heyman performs an entrancing solo where he struggles with controlling his own spastic body. The solo is excellent, but it is unclear as to how it relates to his role as narrator. The other dancers, however, move in and out of character fluidly, embodying Sally, Stu, and seemingly all of humanity. Combined with lighting effects designed by Amiya Brown, Agami takes snapshots from the everyday and abstracts them. A woman habitually making dinner, a group of people watching a movie and eating sunflower seeds—isolated, these familiar scenes become both terrifically beautiful and sad. Another fast dance sequence begins—dancer Tara Dyberg exhibits stunning technical prowess, and Genna Moroni is a dance firecracker. Then, the show suddenly ends. If not for a planted audience member whose job was clearly to initiate applause, no one would have known the piece was finished. It seems a shame to sell a masterpiece short on its final note, but with a little extra finagling, Agami could easily create a more satisfactory ending.

Sally meets Stu
Photo by Tim Summers
Seattle dance fans have VelocityDanceCenterto thank for bringing Agami to the area. Director, Tonya Lockyer, responded to a desire in the community to study Gaga, the technique of the Batsheva company, and convinced Agami to come give Seattlea try. The result has been a series of master classes, workshops, and open company classes since Ate9 was founded in June. Velocity commissioned Sally Meets Stu and supported it with a 2-month residency with daily rehearsals, the effect of which is very evident in the performance. Lockyer notes that this kind of time and space to create work is currently unsustainable in Seattlebecause dancers and choreographers are working two and three jobs outside of dance just to support themselves. She explains that these fantastic companies, like the Seattlefavorite Kidd Pivot of Canada, or Batsheva of Isreal, exist and flourish because there is so much more support in other countries. Despite the odds, Agami has decided to try to base her company here in Seattle. She is taking Sally Meets Stu on a West coast tour starting this month to Vancouver, BC, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and is currently fundraising so that she can feed and house her dancers who must leave their day jobs to commit to a life of dance. Agami’s ambition and idealism is inspiring, and hopefully the community will come together to support her and other dance artists who deserve to be paid for their skills and contributions to our community.

To donate to Ate9’s campaign, visit their Indigogo site, visit http://www.indiegogo.com/ate9dancecompany

To learn more about the company and their upcoming shows, visit