At opening night of Version Excursion’s newest production, audience members piled into the cozy Annex Theatre on Capitol Hill for an intimate evening of modern dance. With Version Excursion, producer and company founder Erin Nichole Boyt has assembled a group of emerging artists who explore and create dance together. The evening featured choreography and performances by Boyt and company dancers, as well as guest artists—ultimately creating a diverse program.
Guest choreographer Angelica DeLashmette’s Wrestle of the Soul opened the show with her own group of dancers, and, true to the piece’s name, she presented an internal struggle between body and soul. While the dancers showed undeniably intense focus and commitment, the movement itself seemed to lack fullness. This felt true for most of the pieces throughout the evening—while the dancers executed the movements beautifully with clear focus and intention, the dancing simply lacked energy. The facial expressions, costumes, and music often became the driving forces, making the choreography secondary to the drama. To be fair, this was partially due to the constraints of the theater itself. The stage was small, prohibiting the movement from being fulfilled to its potential. While the dancers’ relationships with one another were captivating (clearly the result of many rehearsal hours spent establishing a strong connectivity), the spatial constrictions did the pieces and the dancers an injustice. Though the constraints of a small performance space are not the fault of the dancers, it is important for choreographers to be aware of such restrictions throughout their choreographic process. The size of the stage prohibited the dancers from flying across the space when that was warranted.
The highlight of the evening was company member Rachael Forstrom’s Head Forward Moving Backward. Three women in long, black, flamenco-esque dresses moved slowly across the stage in a diagonal line. Facing upstage they softly floated forward with deliberate ease and purpose; yet, while they moved backward, the dancers reached downstage, extending their arms with a sense of longing or looking up and frantically shaking their hands at the sky. Forstrom was able to utilize the small space to her advantage, drawing attention to the slow and lugubrious gestures or the juxtaposition between the calm and composed moments and those with a more frantic energy. Though the work’s message never became entirely clear, this ambiguity made it all the more intriguing. The piece’s composition painted a picture that remained engaging within the confines of the space.
The concept behind Version Excursion is an inspiring idea for the Seattle dance community. Instead of one choreographer driving each work, the dancers and choreographers worked together to create new ideas—a collaboration evidenced in the evening’s performances. It was clear that the performers had a strong connection to one another as they worked together to bring the pieces to life. As Version Excursion continues to mature as a group, it will be exciting to see the new works produced from these collaborations. For more information about Version Excursion and their upcoming shows, visit their website.
Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated the title of Angelica DeLashmette’s work, Wrestle of the Soul, and misrepresented her relationship to Version Excursion. DeLashmette and her dancers performed her work in the capacity of guest artists, not company members.