As the Seattle International Dance Festival (directed by Cyrus Khambatta) drew to a close on Sunday June 22, 2014 there was an ironic air of openness amidst the duality of works presented. This openness, no doubt, was cultivated by the sheer vulnerability of subject matter and an eclectic, all-ages audience whose engagement stripped (in every sense of the term) the barrier between the anticipatory and the avant-garde. Performed at Raisbeck Hall, Romanian choreographer Cristina Lilienfeld and her fellow artists Nicole Bindler and Gabrielle Revlock presented works tonally at odds and yet beautifully reminiscent of one another. The combination ultimately made for a cohesive, colorful performance that was refreshingly thought provoking. While the individual works posed a number of questions in and of themselves, it was primarily the juxtaposition between them that left the audience answerless perhaps, but with a greater understanding of themselves and of dance as an art form.
Lay(ers) (first composed in 2013, and winner of the National Choreography contest) was both choreographed and danced by Cristina Lilienfeld, whose nearly-nude figure—covered in a layer of clay and patches of skin-like material—was fixating in its easefulness, especially in the more preliminary sequences of her evolving movement phrases. An exploration of the body as a vessel for sensation and integration, Lay(ers) began with Lilienfeld’s sweeping circular movements of infantile facility. The work progressed into a full blown provocation of social paradigm as it relates to body image, introspection, and authenticity. Both illusory and literal, Lay(ers) was an abstraction of boundaries but remained concretely experiential for those courageous enough to participate. Although the beginning phases were beautifully organic, Lay(ers) reached its climax when Lilienfeld breached the fourth wall by prompting audience members to enter the stage and paint her skin with the first words that came to mind at the sight of her body. With fingers as bare as Lilienfeld’s breasts and yet somehow more uncertain, onlookers became artists, scripting words onto every facet of her skin with amusing curiosity as if afraid of the body they so similarly possessed. The work ended with almost too-literal finality, however, culminating in a gestural sequence and ultimately, Lilienfeld hand-washing her body of clay and letters alike. She peeled the layers of plastic skin from her slight frame and disappeared, anonymously, into the crowd. While at times, Lay(ers) may have felt dynamically stunted and technically fragile, overall, the work was as satisfyingly digestible as it was compositionally beautiful.
Nicole Bindler and Gabrielle Revlock followed Lay(ers) with surprising ease and uniformity in, I made this for you.—an explorative, theatrical journey seeking to examine the extent to which choreography is created, transformed, and produced with audience desires in mind. Bindler and Revlock (accompanied off and on by a wide variety of performers), outwitted the audience with satirical rhetoric on dance performance, poking fun at postmodern movement, flashy competition dance, and eroticism. They created an altogether idiosyncratic and ironically avant-garde critique of what it means to be, well, avant-garde. While Bindler shocked audiences with her pant-less escapades and audience make-out session, Revlock’s characteristic hesitancy, hoola hoop jam session, and yoga dance, spoke to a far more “conventional” and classically modest approach to movement. They left whichever was more appealing up to the audience and the “judges,” whose pointed (albeit pre-conceived) commentary spoke more to the indeterminacy of dance as an art-form than to the performances as a whole. Brilliantly conceived, choreographed, and performed, Bindler and Revlock’s I made this for you. was more question than artistic statement though it offered more answers than might be expected from such an ostensibly satirical show.
Sunday’s production of Beyond the Threshold, the culmination of SIDF events for the year, may have been a one-night-only show, but was, without a doubt, a thought-provoking and dynamically diverse production. Although both Lay(ers) and I made this for you. could have used more technical clarity, from a holistic standpoint, Lilienfeld, Bindler, and Revlock’s introspective examinations of their own art outweighed any and all technical imperfections; the three created an entertaining and profound showcase of talent.
More information about the Seattle International Dance Festival can be found here.
For more information about the Beyond the Threshold artists see their websites: