Pelvis forward, chest recessed, chin prominent, heels striking, clean lines—these signature postures belong, of course, to the starlet of Seattle’s contemporary dance scene, Kate Wallich. She’s managed to sculpt her own idiosyncrasies into an aesthetic point of view—an accomplishment that fuels her young but rapid success. She is the latest beneficiary of Velocity Dance Center’s Made in Seattle program, which commissions and supports full length works from Seattle’s brightest and best. The Thursday, February 13, premiere of Super Eagle was the result of over a year of work from Wallich, her company The YC, and Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer Andrew Bartee, all of whom collaborated on the production.
The piece was essentially a series of duets with occasional interplay involving all four performers. Unexpected weight shares and unconventional grips defined Wallich and Bartee’s introductory duet. Alternately gliding, draping, and freezing, they moved in a staccato of innovative lifts, tips, and rebounds. This might have told the story of a troubled couple, but Wallich and Bartee appeared so empty that the relationship was unconvincing. Wallich, at least, exudes a sort of intense vacancy, but even this tended to eclipse Bartee’s onstage presence. It’s understandable if they didn’t wish to use melodramatics to indicate the relationship, but the choreography implied an intimacy that the performance didn’t reinforce.
Matt Drews and Lavinia Vago, however, accomplished what the first pair did not—their performances developed while still maintaining subtlety. Drews in particular was completely captivating—he possesses a refined wildness and a conflicted soul seems to infuse his every movement. Their duet choreography had more drama as well. Full of desperation and codependence, they alternated between clinging to and rejecting each other. At one point, Drews shoved Vago’s head away violently and at another appeared to suffocate her in a headlock, Vago’s feet twitching disturbingly. These blatant moments of domestic abuse seemed to come and go without being addressed, however, which felt like opening up a can of worms and then pretending there’s no elephant in the room. Another controversial choice was the ending—after spending the vast majority of the piece in a dreamy pulsing synth ambience, the music suddenly shifts to a heavy hip hop beat with pop lyrics. Such a bold move could not have been accidental—perhaps Wallich intended to shatter the world she had so carefully created over the course of the evening. Either way, post-show mutterings seemed to indicate that it was an unpopular choice.
Where Wallich did succeed was in her attention to details. The work was pristine, the dancers exquisite. Original costumes, by Pierre Davis, lights by Amiya Brown, and music by Lena Simon, all contributed to the high production value. There was not a rough edge to be found either technically or aesthetically. The choreography was also highly designed—moments of synchronicity seemed to spring up when least expected and striking visual structures pervaded the work. In one unforgettable moment, Vago extended her body out to impossible lengths, reaching for Bartee’s ever-retracting hand as Drews held her foot in place. She repeated the movement over and over, each time falling with Bartee’s teasing hand just barely out of reach. Like Vago in this moment, Super Eagle came very close, but fell just short. The effort and potential, however, were still very much worth watching.