Velocity’s Strictly Seattle is integral to Seattle’s dance scene for innumerable reasons, most significantly because it likely brings more dancers into the community than any other event in the city. This year’s performances at Broadway Performance Hall, July 25-26, seemed to have higher numbers than ever before. Every cast featured at least twelve dancers, with no overlap between the seven pieces presented onstage. This year, Strictly Seattle inaugurated a Dance Film track with KT Niehoff, which produced eight short films that were shown throughout the evening.
To begin the show, Rosa Vissers’ Split Second introduced a new batch of beginners to Seattle audiences. In a well-crafted piece that built on repetition and expansion of themes and their variants, Vissers displayed a kind of genius for highlighting the strengths of her dancers and tailoring phrase work to match their skills. The pedestrian qualities of the choreography coaxed strong lines and impressive partnering from the dancers and enhanced the structural integrity of the piece.
Field Notes on Survival, choreographed by Shannon Stewart on intermediate track participants, was the stand-out piece in Act 1. Two caged lamps swung from long extension cords, lending a dreamlike sensation to the landscape of the stage. The movement began slowly, some dancers pushing the lamps back and forth while others deconstructed the action of falling, one joint at a time. Little by little, the intensity increased to a point of terrific risk-taking—dancers rolling upstage while others jumped blindly over them, dodging the rapidly swinging lamps. Many of the performers showed exceeding talent; like Vissers, Stewart revealed a deft ability to make her dancers look good onstage.
Unfortunately, Pat Graney did not use her dancers as effectively as one would expect from such a highly lauded artist. The complex choreography of ORANGE did not seem to suit her advanced track dancers. In addition, their bright orange tanks, briefs, and sneakers interrupted their lines, making the material seem ungainly. The costumes appeared at odds with the upbeat fiddle music that attempted to coax a celebratory mood out of the straight-faced dancers. Even with its shortcomings, the piece was enthusiastically received by the audience.
Four dance films served as an interlude in the first act, and four more kicked off the second. While many were riddled with technical issues, especially abruptly cut endings, they were a welcome and distinctive addition to the evening. Though all were worth watching, To Knot a Hare (Hallie Scott, Sebastien Scandiuzzi, and Chloe Goulsby) and Loops and Tides (Juliette Machado, Tracy Nystrom, and Hazel Morris) stood out as exceptionally well fashioned, with fantastic cinematography and editing to support the captivating new worlds of each film.
In the second act, Bryon Carr’s beginning track cast performed in the driving and technically challenging dream. A few of the dancers were incredible naturals, though every performer showed great rhythm and spunk. These dancers succeeded in appearing fully in their bodies, and fully present onstage, even as they conquered the challenges that Carr’s choreography presented.
The intermediate dancers in Nancy, choreographed by Jody Kuehner, entered with a sneaky run down the aisles of the theater. Outfitted uniformly in black leggings, black turtlenecks, and short black bobs, they squirmed fluidly on the stage, repeating individual phrases and occupying various levels. As the piece progressed, their movements became ever more frenetic, developing an enchanting chaos. More stunning yet was the sudden stillness and mesmerizingly crisp unison that followed—a theme broken by the group shouting the lyrics of the accompanying music.
Zoe Scofield set yet another gorgeous piece, entitled eight.2, on the professional track dancers. Pastel, high-waisted shorts and lacy white blouses provided sweetness, as the dancers deconstructed the sometimes stressful process of creating and learning a dance. Scofield’s cast demonstrated refined technique—consistently clean lines, articulate limbs, smooth partnering, and strong control—in a way that isn’t seen enough on Seattle stages. On top of this, they performed as one comfortable unit, already a strong company of individual dancers that would do well to stick together in the future.
Undertow, by Bennyroyce Royon closed the night on a strong note, pulling “inspiration from the underlying forces in life that shift the core of our being.” These dancers from the advanced track proved themselves capable not only of sleek technical work, but of imbuing it with deeply emotive qualities. They carried the highly dynamic choreography, filled with suspensions and quick catches, with nary a trip or a stutter.
As it has done for many of us, let’s hope that Strictly Seattle inspires these dancers to call Seattle home. Their talents will always be welcome in this community.
For more information on Strictly Seattle, visit velocitydancecenter.org.