Velocity Kicks Off into a New Season

If you ever start fearing that contemporary dance in Seattle all looks the same, the Velocity Fall Kick Off is here to remind you otherwise. Again and again, Velocity proves itself as both supporter and tastemaker for dance in Seattle, and this annual event is possibly the best example of why. The 2013 Fall Kick Off series ran September 26-29, and served as a strong indicator of the city’s vibrant and varied dance scene. Velocity also took the opportunity to continue to foster what Executive/Artistic Director Tonya Lockyer calls “a culture of gratitude” with their Dance Champion Awards—this year’s honorees were Glenn Kawasaki and Josh Windsor, both of whose support is a big reason why places like Velocity can be what they are.

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Glenn Kawasaki receiving the 2013 Velocity Dance Champion award from Kate Wallich and Zoe Scofield
Photo by Tim Summers

If you ever start fearing that contemporary dance in Seattle all looks the same, the Velocity Fall Kick Off is here to remind you otherwise. Again and again, Velocity proves itself as both supporter and tastemaker for dance in Seattle, and this annual event is possibly the best example of why. The 2013 Fall Kick Off series ran September 26-29, and served as a strong indicator of the city’s vibrant and varied dance scene. Velocity also took the opportunity to continue to foster what Executive/Artistic Director Tonya Lockyer calls “a culture of gratitude” with their Dance Champion Awards—this year’s honorees were Glenn Kawasaki and Josh Windsor, both of whose support is a big reason why places like Velocity can be what they are.

BB-PE-Mo_photo by Tino Tran

PE-Mo at the Big Bang!
Photo by Tino Tran

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday featured three Seattle Dance Showcases that reflected the great breadth (and depth) of dancers and choreographers who call this city home. Highlights from Friday night—besides the antics of host Cherdonna Shinatra, hair taller than ever—included work from Stranger Genius Award finalists Pat Graney, AmyO/tinyrage, and zoe|juniper. Graney’s excerpt from House of Mind featured a trio of women in simple, structured dress dancing on creaky chairs, and then a solo with a wooden box for Jenny Peterson, who moved the box until it was a clunky, unapologetically loud extension of herself. Amy O’Neal’s something light for the sake of something dark was the standout dance of the evening. Her quality of movement, soft and slow with explosive moments of body isolations, is hypnotic. Her focus was inward, her face hidden with a hoodie and an upstage facing, but her whole body filled the space, her hip hop-based movement augmented by her contemporary dance grounding (or perhaps it’s the other way around). zoe|juniper’s excerpt from No one to witness and adjust: study #1 was a beautiful example of the collaboration between Zoe Scofield and Juniper Shuey (who, for the record, won the Genius Award). Scofield moved in front of a screen, her shadow dancing a simple, intimate duet with a second shadow of herself, projected by film.

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Amy O’Neal in something light for the sake of something dark
Photo by Tim Summers

Saturday, hosted by Jason Ohlberg, was perhaps the danciest evening. Almost every piece showed significant classical training brought into the contemporary realm, whether deftly integrating the bizarre (Jackie An + Christin Call) or simply making new choreography on highly-trained performers (Alana O Rogers, Iyun Ashani Harrison). Ohlberg’s Departure from 5th fell somewhere between these two categories, with dancers Chris Montoya and Harrison performing straightforward, technical choreography that found another level when paired with the sound score of their words about their relationship with their male dancers’ bodies. Erica Badgeley and Elia Mrak presented touch, the newest work of their ongoing and fruitful collaboration (they will tour through SCUBA in 2014). As always, both have enough presence to captivate an audience by standing perfectly still, which they did in touch, but they also danced with effusive joy in each other’s company. Though physical touch did not figure into the choreography, their eye contact and movement brought them even closer. Closing the evening was Donald Byrd’s near the swan lake, a send-off of Swan Lake featuring the Act I waltz. Spectrum’s men and women, appearing in white tutus, skin caps, and not much else, flapped graceful wings and smiled through Byrd’s characteristically demanding choreography. The spectacular dancing helped the schtick of the piece last through the final moments, when the dancers filed into a v-formation with furious bourrées.

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Pat Graney’s House of Mind
Photo by Tim Summers

Sunday’s performance closed the weekend on a high point, each dance as engrossing as the last and Host Annie McGhee’s boundless enthusiasm for contemporary dance framing each work. Corrie Befort’s excerpt from Aphorisms let the audience bask in a strange juxtaposition: first Befort danced a solo on the edge of a spotlight, the smallest sustained twitches of limbs combined with torso-driven movement, as if her body were bound in unexpected places; then, a large, bulbous thing sidled on stage. This thing (with Shannon Stewart inside) looked like a giant piece of ginger, only more phallic, and it danced it’s own slow, self-conscious solo. Whatever is in Befort’s imagination, it’s good for Seattle that she has an outlet for it. Etienne Cakpo danced an intensely focused solo (Poly Ideas) of West African dance-based choreography that broadened out of its intensity as his face took on a lighter tone at the finish, when he knelt somewhat quizzically, lost in thought. Ezra Dickinson’s Mother cut to the emotional core with a dance that put feelings of sadness, comfort, and confinement in the same space. He burst slowly out of a plastic covered box and pulled out paper garlands of faces (his mother’s?), only to gather these back up, put himself back into the box, and then be wheeled away. Dayna Hanson and Peggy Piacenza ended the evening on a theatrical note with Ginger/Rebecca: A Study from the Clay Duke, pairing a footwork-heavy dance with a scenario of putting together a movie scene straight out a 1970s thriller—a darkly humorous look at creative process through a dance lens.

Every artist involved this weekend deserves a longer write-up, so it’s a good thing they all have upcoming projects. In keeping with the “culture of gratitude,” all of the Showcase artists, including those not yet mentioned—Alice Gosti, Kaitlin McCarthy + Jenny Peterson, Kate Wallich, Babette Pendleton McGeady, Markeith Wiley, and Heather Kravas—deserve thanks for making this scene so diverse, just as Kawasaki and Windsor deserve praise for supporting this dance community and allowing it to thrive. But most particularly, Velocity itself deserves appreciative acknowledgement for continuing to offer a community space for the art of dance to grow.

For more information, visit Velocity’s website.

 

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