NW New Works: Weekend One Highlights

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Choreographer and dancer Josh Martin
Photo by David Cooper
On the Boards’ 30th annual NW New Works Festival opened its first weekend showcase June 7-9, 2013. Between a mainstage and studio show, eight artists presented new works in what has come to be a see-it-here-first event for both emerging and established choreographers from the Northwest, including Washington, Oregon, and British Colombia.

 

One stand-out piece of the festival was Josh Martin’s Leftovers. This utterly jaw-dropping solo perfectly replicated time-lapse and Claymation film qualities though precisely controlled, miniscule movements. Martin’s otherworldly quality, combined with stunning lighting by Won Kyoon Han, made for the rare dance piece that seems to transcend intellectual interpretation. Leftovers was a piece to absorb, as if through osmosis.

 

A highlight on the other end of the spectrum was Rigged, an at once ridiculous and all-too-familiar class allegory created by PE|Mo, the collaboration between Halto and Rosa Vissers. A large cast of dancers dressed in race uniforms competed in high endurance activities while a man in a suit casually and arrogantly enjoyed the finer things in life. While the premise may sound cut and dry, PE|Mo imbues the choreography with humor, empathy, and a very creative use of space to create a work that entertains and ignites.
Hatlo and Rosa Vissers of PE|Mo Photo by Tim Summers
Elia Mrak is another artist whose work blends humor with empathy. His choreography contains games with secret internal laws—the elements of play and improvisation make for living, breathing artistic entities. His cast consisted of five men (including himself), each from a different practice: folk dancer, pianist, chaplain, engineer, and writer. The engaging beginning of los samurai had the men karate chopping with accompanying “huah!” sounds in a fast paced and ever-changing rhythm. The bittersweet and grand ending was an authentic monologue by chaplain Joel Berning in counterpoint with Mrak’s weightless groundwork. The piece, while fantastic in parts, desired more arc development. It would have been nice to see each cast member as intimately as Berning and Mrak, since the identities of these men seemed essential to the piece.

 

As always, NWNW festival promises to be an indicator of the freshest local performance, and it succeeded with AJA (the A is silent), the newly-formed collaborative team of Anh Nguyen, Jessica Robinson, and Alice Gosti. This intensely creative team presented slugs do it real slow and pretty, a theatrical meditation on lust that ranged from manic physicality to the most tender intimacy. AJA’s imagery was spot on—instantly relatable, but still layered and nuanced. The performers shone here with such authenticity that it seems the choreography must be true to their own experiences.
AJA (the A is silent) Photo by Tim Summers
This sense of authenticity was an element that defined the most successful pieces at NWNW. Clair Thomforde-Gardner’s work, The Wrestling Match, and Allie Hankins’ Misshapen Pearl both entertained interesting concepts, but failed to allow the dancer to bring anything to the table; their individuality and skill sets went unacknowledged in the choreography. Other works this past weekend included A Compelling, Unknown Force, by Pony World Theater, and One Plus by The Mystiquesterium, all and all making for an exciting first weekend. If you missed out (or even if you didn’t) tickets are still available for the second festival weekend, featuring a new lineup of Northwest artists. Visit ontheboards.org for details.