BOOST 2014’s second week program filled the Erickson Theater with tension and struggle. Many of these fights were subtle or internal, but intensely fraught nonetheless. Marlo Martin, who produces the festival alongside Kristen Legg, introduced the show by saying she was more excited about it than any other show in BOOST’s five-year history. She promised an evening packed with one surprise after another, and in many ways, it delivered.
Iyun Ashani Harrison presented The Leaves Have Fallen, a stark yet soft breakdown of the end of a relationship. Dressed in silver shorts and unbuttoned shirts, Harrison and Sam Picart bolstered their impressive technique with deeply emotional body language. Their partnering treated the audience to impressive man-on-man lifts and emphasized both love and heartbreak in the relationship. It faltered in its transitions, however, breaking the flow of the piece. The spiraling pattern of the choreography drew the dancers in and out of the other’s grasp, suggesting magnetism in the relationship even as they drifted apart. Leaves fought for the survival of a love that had already fallen.
The sound of ripping paper cut through the darkness between pieces, initiating TORN, a solo choreographed by Catherine Cabeen and performed by Sarah Lustbader. As the stage brightened, Lustbader scribbled furiously in a notebook, stopping frequently to rip out the pages and toss them in a crumbled circle around her. As the overwhelming tearing noises transferred to the sound system, she showed signs of frustration: holding her head, walking her fingers along her arm to the cliff edge of her fingertips, and recoiling. As it expanded through the space, the choreography kept to a few thematic phrases, testing and retesting the same material, looking for a place to build. These choreographic choices cleverly echoed the defeat of writer’s block, which the heroine never managed to overcome.
Five women took the stage in an eerie excerpt from Iron Daisies, choreographed by Alicia Mullikin and accompanied onstage by Daniel Mullikin. Dressed in white, they advanced through a series of leggy lifts accompanied by one dancer’s monologue. Unfortunately, the dancer’s delivery and aimless wandering around the edge of the stage detracted from the choreography in that section. Danica Bito led much of the stunning performance, and surprised the audience with a stirringly breathless song. Her song ended in a scream as Mullikin took the microphone to sing “Paloma Negra” while the rest coaxed Bito into a trap of a wedding dress. The song’s lyrics, encoded in Spanish, gave a cruelly sorrowful depth to the violent quartet behind her. By the time the piece ended, members of the audience were moved to tears and shocked screams of their own.
I was, and still am, choreographed and performed by Kaitlyn Dye, echoed TORN in many ways, though her struggle appeared to be more external than internal. Though Dye began with a repetitive phrase, she quickly broke out of it quickly with a keen sense of determination. She developed her phrases with technical strength and speed; from time to time moving so quickly that her limbs blurred entirely. She remained grounded throughout, confident in defying her mysterious opponent, though she was constantly defeated. Finally, she gave in, opening herself up to the onslaught rather than fighting. As the lights faded, a series of wild spins picked her up in an image so entrancing that the audience held their applause and their breath even after the lights went black.
After intermission, Elia Mrak’s From Silence opened with what could be dubbed “reverse silence.” As the curtains opened, loud techno music and distorted feedback pulsed through the still-dark space. A dim red and blue glow from a set of turntables barely hinted at the movements of DJ FeverOne (Carter McGlasson), and, as the audience adjusted to the visual silence, Mrak could be sensed more than seen. Much of the performance was bathed in sound, either loud techno or exaggerated breathing, making the one moment of complete silence even more striking. Everything froze for a brief eternity—until a cough in the audience initiated Mrak’s return to life, demonstrating his deft ability to bridge the fourth wall simply by being human.
With the title Take A|Part This, Babette Pendleton McGeady’s solo challenged the audience directly, daring them to analyze the piece for a higher meaning. A single, uncovered lamp stood on the back corner of a giant sheet of paper, creating an austere environment that complemented the dark cadences of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” surprisingly well. In a skimpy nude leo, red socks, and red threads connecting the two, McGeady glared at the audience, exuding both lust and wrath. The contrast between her violent thrashing and provocative restraint hinted at themes of sexual objectification. Like much of her work, Take A|Part This was sharply intellectual, but the harsh, pedestrian quality of her movements belied the socio-political undertones of the piece.
Martin’s Wake State brought the show to a close, as it did in week one. The large cast of dancers folded in and out of unison, always providing a counterpoint to the group. With Martin performing, her dancers faced the extra challenge of matching her energy and emulating her luxurious style even in snappy gestures. This week, I took the chance to sit on the side of the stage for the last section of the piece. Even with the performers directing their energy to the front of the stage, the vantage point invited a more personal connection with the performers and more intense understanding of their physicality.
After seeing both performances, it was clear that the programs were arranged for continuity, keeping like pieces together. Still, each could have benefitted from more variety in the show order, which would have given audiences who only attended one weekend a more complete glimpse of the wide range of work being produced in Seattle. As a whole, this is one thing BOOST does well—bringing choreographers and performers from all corners of the Seattle community together for one big blow-out. There is no doubt the festival will leave a hole behind in its upcoming “break year,” but we can be sure to expect exciting new surprises when it returns in 2016.
More information about BOOST, its artists, and its history is available at boostdancefestival.org.