Local and international dance companies took to the stage and delighted, dazzled, and challenged audiences with their works in the first weekend of this year’s Seattle International Dance Festival. Seattle-based Khambatta Dance Company and Brazilian Experimentus performed at Raisbeck Hall in the second lineup of the first weekend of the Inter|National Series on June 14. Although the program listed three works, one by Khambatta and two by Experimentus, the latter only performed one piece, as Cyrus Khambatta, (director of KDC and of the festival as a whole) announced before the show.
KDC’s Vice and Virtue began the evening. Two women in red slinked around one another quarreling over an apple, a symbolic reference to ideas of desire and temptation, undoubtedly inspired by the classic tale of Adam and Eve. With the apple acting as a common thread throughout the work, relationships between the red-clad five dancers (two men and three women) shifted as each grouping—either a trio, duet, or quartet—enacted various scenarios of deceit, desire, and temptation. Cello scores by Julia Kent contributed to the atmospheres in tones ranging from dramatic, to sentimental, and even to violent.
Although choreographically strong, the piece ran longer than necessary. The theme was well delivered through a sensible balance of movement dynamics: slow and fast, melodic and rhythmic, gestural and full-bodied. But as the work continued through multiple sections, no striking new information about the theme was revealed. The dancers’ interactions also craved more sincerity. The duets incorporated challenging lifts, which were executed skillfully, but the in-between moments—the eye contact, the simple gestural touches, among others—lacked chemistry and honesty. A touch became a careless brush, and eye contact became a mere glance. A work that tackled primal human experiences and themes called for a genuine display of humanity, and KDC’s dancers seemed artificial.
After intermission, Experimentus performed Paulo Lima’s The Grey Color of Things. The work was a response to the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, a German philosopher who postulated that the world is mere representation, that pleasure is only a suppression of pain, and that art is an escape.
Even though the work was based on a pessimistic philosophy, the atmospheres that Experimentus created were far from bleak or drab. Lima and dancer Thales Luz created zestful worlds with the use of intricate lighting design (not credited in the program) and props, which ranged from a cigarette to water balloons. Their phrase-work, often repeated several times in canon, incorporated angular gestures and utilitarian strictness. Lima’s cheerful demeanor contrasted with Luz’s unaffectedness, and provided an extra layer of dynamic which kept the audience on their toes.
The highlight of the piece came at the end when Luz and Lima popped water balloons over each others’ bodies, an action that both provided release and cleansed the dancer below. With the stage drenched in water, they slid on their bellies and walked briskly through the puddles as they systematically popped all the balloons on stage. The atmosphere of the section epitomized Experimentus’ performance: although sometimes absurdly funny or even at first, seemingly nonsensical, they were far from inaccessible. The human relationship between Lima and Luz, both to each other and to the dance, made the work’s out-of-this-world atmospheres intrinsically relatable.
While Grey was arguably stronger than Vice, the differences between the two works provided enough contrast to give the audience a chance to experience a diverse palette. From the more literal to the abstract, or from contemporary ballet to postmodern, SIDF’s second lineup showed the audience the range of possibilities in dance, and was accessible enough for both novice and veteran dance-goers alike.
SIDF 10-day run ended on June 22. Since 2009, the festival has provided a showcase for local, national, and international companies on the Seattle stage. For more information, visit seattleidf.org