A one-night only culmination of a three-week international intensive, The Samurai Project, on August 28, was as artistically playful as it was compositionally strong. Artistic collaborators and innovators Viko Hernández, Elia Mrak, and Martin Piliponsky transformed Velocity Dance Center’s intimate Founder’s Theater into a meditative, timeless sphere wherein easefulness and strength merged to create a sensory experience for audience members and dancers alike. Mary Madsen, Amelia Uzategui, Hannah Wendel, and Eva Hegge Wilder performed alongside the three men, making for a diverse performance. Joined by the skilled and undeniably talented musician Nico Tower (whose vocal and instrumental improvisations conversed elaborately with the movement), dancers of The Samurai Project made no patchwork creation; to the contrary, they provided a holistic look into the creative process while simultaneously addressing contemporary conceptions of what it means to make art.
In addition to sheer improvisational prowess, what made The Samurai Project most notable was that the dancers appeared spatially unlimited. The facility of their movement created an alien aesthetic (alien, mostly, in the seeming impossibility of its effortlessness), yet it was also beautifully human: introspective, curious, and explorative. Dancers used their limbs to carve through space, sometimes with invigorating slowness in the form of lunging phrase work or gestural segments. Often they took on a hip hop influence, capturing the aesthetic of cool and spinning or sliding in and out of the floor with B-Boy-esque proficiency. A picture of organic deftness, they managed to defy the baseboard beneath them, and—as if working as a single-celled organism—formulated an image of hydrodynamic circularity in and out of the floor. The work was thematic, though, in the sense that it carried various motifs. Repetitive walking and running sequences unified the group especially after individual or duet phrases, and various movements made sporadic (though well-placed) reappearances throughout the work. Repetition aside, however, there was nothing concrete about The Samurai Project; in fact, it appeared to be an entirely experiential journey for the dancers and musician, whose decisions were based more on breath and interaction than on the structure of the score. Because of this deep investment in improvisation, both performers and audience members seemed to unite in response to a mutual anticipation of the shared unknown.
The only distinguishable blip in the performance, however, was a very brief, though stark and seemingly unintentional energetic shift towards the end of the work. The dancers lost the uniformity and fluidity that made the rest of The Samurai Project so aesthetically captivating. Spatial pathways became stunted and movement less grounded, creating a sequence somehow at odds with the energy of former repetitions. Nevertheless, the dancers managed to recapture their previous dynamism for a strong finish, ultimately producing an effect of comprehensive connectivity and compositional flow.
The Samurai Project was a beautiful investigation of what it means to be human. With complete authenticity, the dancers exhibited tremendous technique as well as a unique sense of adaptability and interpersonal connection. Although a one-night-only show in Seattle, The Samurai Project will premiere in Mexico City as part of a larger work on September 19th and will, without a doubt, be just as much of a success there as it was here.
More information about The Samurai Project can be found here.