The second and final weekend of the Seattle International Dance Festival’s Inter|National Series closed its first program with two dance companies from the U.S at Raisbeck Performance Hall on Friday, June 21, 2013. The Maida Withers Dance Construction Company (Washington, D.C.) presented Collision Course – a.k.a Pillow Talk, a lengthy dance theatre work involving four dancers, an original electronic sound score and digital visual installation intertwined with music by Steven C. Hilmy, text and sonosphere by Alissandru Caldiero, visual design by Anthony Gongora, digital paintings by Michelle Kliman, and roughly a dozen pillows. The Dancing People Company (Ashland, Oregon) presented three distinct works choreographed by director Robin Stiehm and performed by the talented Veronica DeWitt, Erin Drummond, Brianna Rae Johnson, and Tiffany Watson.
Collision Course – a.k.a Pillow Talk was highly saturated with video, audio, and movement. The four performers, Withers, Nathaniel Bond, Gongora, and Giselle Ruzany, were refreshing to watch as they showcased a variety of technical abilities, age, and body types rarely seen in most dance companies. The quartet, clad in white slips or shorts, talked to their pillows, made out with them, skipped on them, slid across the stage on them, face-planted and belly-flopped onto a mountain of them, and involved them in their numerous partnered lifts. At times they woke up from nightmares of bullying, confessions of love, or obsessive-compulsive behaviors in relation to the alignment of the pillows on stage. The spoken text came in through the image of a man superimposed on the image of a pillow floating in the skies on the backdrop behind the dancers. This image was sometimes fragmented into several pillows, each containing an eye and a mouth. At random points, dissected photographs of the dancers floated around on the screen juxtaposed with abstract paintings. Looped text erupted from the speakers, saying “ARCH, ARRR C. When you orgasm you arch, you become a fetus. You want to remember, you want to forget. Who wants to know? Is this the story you want to tell? And who cares?” Toward the end, the dancers engaged in a pillow fight with the audience members. Hilariously, one of the audience members sent a pillow directly to Withers’ feet, causing her to improvise a fall. The overall experience was that of a dream and a stream of consciousness. Conceptually, the piece left a sense of unsettlement, but it ended beautifully with feathers falling from above.
While Withers’ performance took place in the skies and the realm of fantasy, the Dancing People Company brought the audience back to the ground with Threshold, which was performed on an eight-by-ten-foot patch of grass. DeWitt, Drummond, and Johnson’s bodies underwent metamorphosis as they became wild predators who hunted, climbed, and sprang onto one another in the confined grassy space, all to the sounds of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” Ikue Mori’s “Birthdays,” and “Bamboo Battles.” Their fast and complex partnering lifts never seemed to catch them by surprise; they fell with the ease of dancers who have been practicing contact improvisation for years. The duo Ephemeral Lifetimes, performed by Drummond and Johnson to Max Richter’s “Flowers for Yulia,” surpassed worldly experiences. This energetically quieter piece reflected on life’s beyond and the tragedy of its passing. The two performers hardly interacted as they confined their adagio-like solos to a static place on stage. This mood returned again in Aspects of the Heart, with Richter’s music, “The Four Seasons, Recomposed,” as all four dancers exhibited proficient technique in high jumps, and sudden, hyper-articulated, disjointed limb movements. Their active bouncing slowed down in a section with a series of gestural movements framing the face, and, regrettably, it was the only place were the emotional engagement of the performers seemed off. Nonetheless, Stiehm has a gift for using the exquisite technique of her dancers in a captivating display of kinesthesia.
It is quite a treat to look back at the past week as the SIDF comes to a close, and to see the rich and diverse performances and movement research projects occurring in Seattle, the U.S., and beyond. Don’t miss the last performances of the festival this Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are available here.