The Bridge Project at Velocity Dance Center is one of the many ways Velocity supports Seattle’s performance community. It stands out for how it gives back not just to the artists, but to the audience as well. The chosen choreographers, who must have been choreographing in Seattle for three years or less, benefit from three weeks of dedicated rehearsal time at Velocity—up to 45 hours—with an auditioned cast and the full support of Velocity’s production staff. The audience benefits from the diverse and engaging performance that gives a sneak peek into the future leaders of Seattle’s dance community. This year’s choreographers, Anna Conner, Colleen McNeary, Babette Pendleton McGeady, and Shannon Stewart, give one much to look forward to.
The evening started with Colony, choreographed by Anna Conner. The lights rose on six dancers, arrayed in couples. All were wearing dark pink tops and white or nude briefs, but one person of each couple was also wearing a headdress of white and pink flowers that covered all of the face and almost all of the head. This somehow transformed them into eerily insect-like yet regal creatures. After some initial vignettes among the couples, suggesting tension and an urgency of connection, the grouping changed, so the three “normal” people grouped together, while the three “insect” people remained seated, moving in slow unison. Even as the other three expanded out into the full stage space with compelling movement, it was the contrast of the seated people that kept drawing the eye. Their stillness had a waiting awareness it, and their slow motion movement held tension and suspense. Colony continues a line of choreographic investigation that will culminate in a full-evening show at Velocity in March. Other pieces in this series have been trios; one of Colony’s special pleasures was seeing how Conner took advantage of the additional choreographic possibilities of more people.
Colleen McNeary’s Scene Study #1 was aptly titled. In it, McNeary, as the sole performer, presented a series of distinct vignettes, separated by blackouts. It opened with her lying on the floor, costumed in all black. She slowly rolled over, looking around, and eventually made her way to standing, expanding her visual examination of the space, and appearing to react with quiet joy and wonder. In other vignettes, she traveled between four different spotlights, exposing her wrist or calf or back to the light; she travelled a diagonal down the stage progressing from her hands manipulating her face, to her hands writing as she arched back, to flailing on the floor in rage or frustration or despair. To finish, she sang “All of Me” as the lighting made her appear increasingly isolated on the stage. Each vignette had its own character, and though there was no overt linkage between them, together they created a greater whole. This effect was enhanced by McNeary’s gestural precision, which gave definition and meaning to her movement. The piece seemed to display different sides of the same person’s personality, or different events in one life, but without a narrative imposed, leaving audiences free to come to their own conclusions.
Intermission helped create anticipation for Babette Pendleton McGeady’s The Unbearable Weight or this could also just be for you as chairs for live accompaniment (voice, cello, and clarinet) and unusual lighting instruments were set up. As the piece started, thin tubes of light on the floor came on brightly; they formed a constricting three-sided box, open on the audience’s side. This box of light both illuminated and back-lit the four dancers, made more shadowy by their black costumes. Two dancers were downstage, facing away from the audience, one of them seated on a chair. They were later revealed to be connected to the chair by short lines running to their costumes; they could pull away from it and each other, but not get away. The other two were in an upper corner of the box, their heads and faces also covered by the black of their costumes. Even more strikingly, one had a tree’s worth of branches sprouting from her back, hovering over the confined space, and the other had layers of black wing-like curls on her back. As the musicians played atmospheric sounds, and the vocalist quietly recited poetry of Warsan Shire, the dancers moved slowly in their space, creating images of tension and mystery, until only the tree person was left on stage, presiding ominously over the space. Though this piece had the least movement, it was the most visually striking of the evening. McGeady’s work will be presented again soon at the Northwest New Works festival and the BOOST dance festival.
Shannon Stewart’s energetic PROGRESS, with a cast of 17, was the perfect closer to the evening. It started with someone dancing her heart out in darkness, and as the lights came up, she was revealed to be repeating a satisfyingly breathy, weighted, body-flinging phrase. She was soon joined by a dancer doing his best imitation of Tigger—trying but failing to interrupt her as he literally bounced off the walls. More dancers emerged and joined in, all attired in simple pedestrian costumes with at least one brightly colored item. Dancers stopped to rest as they got tired, then rejoined the dance party as they felt it. Then a group of dancers seriously executing classical ballet vocabulary in black dance clothes appeared, first only visible through the doorway at the back of the space, then slowly filtering onto the stage, rhythmically chanting “one” as they danced. These groups first contrasted, then mingled and blended. They danced exuberantly, but darker notes of collapse and abandonment intruded until Stewart appeared with a megaphone, shouting instructions of “lines,” “ambition,” “destruction,” and “go” at them. Their dancing reflected the instructions in various ways, some humorous, some disturbing. The piece closed on Stewart alone, anxiously carrying out her own instructions.
For more information on Velocity’s programs and upcoming shows, visit their website.