Velocity’s annual Fall Kick-Off ushered in a promising new season of dance with three different nightly performance showcases, September 5-7, 2014. Sixteen dance artists donated their time and work, fundraiser-style, and the weekend functioned as a who’s-who in the Seattle contemporary dance community. Each choreographer polished his or her individual style into a brief gem, imprinted with their personal signature.
Alice Gosti performed an installation piece before and after the mainstage works on Friday evening as a nightmarish mummy methodically wrapping herself in toilet paper, while blood red ice cubes dripped from the ceiling. Veteran choreographer Dayna Hanson opened the show with an understated quartet focused on the studied arbitrariness of intricate footwork patterns and gestures. The lasting image of Hanson’s Keep on Smiling That Beautiful Smile was Jim Kent and Dylan Ward—a well-matched duo—and the sound of their leather shoes clomping on the floor as they nonchalantly jumped in a syncopated rhythm. Markeith Wiley’s Self-Titled Mixtape Vol #4 read as mood swings after a fresh breakup. Wiley acknowledged the audience’s voyeuristic enjoyment as he played out different memories from a relationship. The solo showcased his range as a performer as he lip-synced to a love song while balloons pelted him from the wings and interspersed slow, contemplative moments with his signature hip hop-contemporary fusion. Cherdonna Shinatra/Jody Kuehner brought down the house with a preview of Worth My Salt, to be premiered at Velocity Oct. 17-19 & 24-26. Revealing her female form in a nude body stocking, Shinatra’s impossibly long limbs writhed as she fell in and out of the floor, as if fighting and surrendering to an outside force.
In Saturday’s showcase, familiar dance artists continued to fulfill expectations. Defying a common trap of variety shows, choreographers took the time to begin slowly and put the viewer in their world before ramping up the dynamics to end with a bang. Anna Conner’s In Parts explored the relationship between Conner’s petite, powerhouse physicality and Micaela Taylor’s statuesque extensions and fluidity. Peppering the duet with stops, starts, and rapid-fire explosions, Connor and Taylor embodied two pistons working concurrently in a machine’s hydraulics system. Mark Haim presented a shortened version of his familiar work, This Land is Your Land, which parades a vast segment of human bodies in front of a rainbow banner. The piece brilliantly masters clarity through simplicity, as minute details gradually shift and echo across the line of cast members. They shyly smile, check their nails, flounce upstage and downstage holding coffee cups, and progress by stages into full undress, all without missing a beat in Haim’s strictly measured structure.
Work by Portland artists Allie Hankins and Keyon Gaskin provided a welcome bit of mystery to the bill full of well-known Seattle names. In Hankins’s cerebral solo, pared-down due to a recent injury, she stumbled blindly into the audience, forcing the front row to catch her hands and pass her down the line. Twining a long swathe of red fabric around the stage and laying near it, her face revealed deep, uncommunicated thoughts. Gaskin prefaced his solo with a monologue that told the audience what he didn’t like—performing in drag, audience interaction, and addressing racial issues—then proceeded to do all of these things. After clearing the audience from the house to the stage because it wouldn’t be “safe” there anymore, he handcuffed himself to a cast-iron skillet (“this is for your protection”) and swung it wildly around the milling audience members, narrowly avoiding noses and shoulders. His daredevil disregard for his own safety was remarkable as he coughed up dice and flung himself into the risers, toppling chairs. The experimental way he addressed his fears in live performance came across as genuine and in-the-moment.
Choreographer/performer ilvs strauss rocketed onto the scene with her solo MANIFESTO, an exciting teaser of another full length slated for Spring 2015. With sincere, endearing delivery, strauss discussed her decision not to have children and the effect this choice has on how she sees herself as a woman. “Yeah, I’m hella pregnant,” she joked, entering the stage in a bright red sea cucumber costume that she had fashioned from a sleeping bag. strauss says that her biological clock is ticking and she has the urge to create, not human life, but art. If MANIFESTO is an indicator, strauss will certainly be one to watch among Velocity’s many options of cutting-edge programming in the upcoming 2014-2015 season. It was a pleasure to watch some of Seattle’s heavy-hitters do what they do best, but even more exciting to look forward to the contributions of newcomers.