Moving cores, turning heads, and tilted legs were all on display at this year’s Full Tilt, the annual show produced by Evoke Productions. With performances on May 1-2 at Velocity Dance Center, the lineup included choreography by Nathan Blackwell, Jovon Miller, Ellie Sandstrom, Ariella Brown, and Rainbow Fletcher. Although thematically superficial overall, the combination of a wide range of styles and virtuosic technique lit up the stage.
The highlights of the show didn’t come until partway through the evening. In Relation To (revisited) by Ellie Sandstrom in collaboration with the dancers, combined high-energy dancing with upbeat lounge music by Chad Beieler. Clad in monochromatic and muted colors, the dancers went through solos, group sequences, and a series of organic duets filled with ever-changing weight shifts and rhythmic sensations throughout the body. Their nonchalant breeziness elevated the performance from a sequence of steps to a showcase of the collective power of bodies moving in relation to one another.
Ladies First, by Ariella Brown with the performers, opened the second act. The work explored the experiences of women through movement and spoken text. The music shifted from classical piano to cheery show tunes to traditional polyrhythmic music, and the movements matched these different characteristics. The classical section displayed a collage of contemplative solos; jazzy liveliness complemented the playful show tunes that came next. In addition, dynamic, high-powered, African-dance-inspired movements followed. Despite the variety of sections and mood, the spoken texts interspersed within each segment provided a common thread throughout. The performers described how society treats them differently because of their gender. Although the casting choices and the text reflected the intersectional complexity of women’s experiences, the low audio quality of some of the spoken text slightly detracted from the overall performance.
Last on the program was Rainbow Fletcher’s Hot Wax. Sounds of water trickling opened the piece and provided a backdrop to a duet between dancers Lynn Tofil and Drew Santoro, clad in red unitards and with 1960s-style beehive hairdo. The pair slinked and slithered along the floor with keen focus and intensity toward each other. After a short blackout, Julian Young and Arlene Martin joined. As though the second pair injected a dose of adrenaline, they boosted the mood of the work from an intense exchange to a witty cavort set to a surf rock score by Meltones. While the blackout fragmented the work like two separate pieces, Hot Wax still proved a potent end to the show.
Despite the strong ending, it took a while for Full Tilt to climb to that point. krāv by Nathan Blackwell opened the show, filled to the brim with drone sounds, damp and loose hair, smudged makeup, blank facial expressions, and post-modernist lethargy. For the most part, the group walked and did grand leg gestures like developpés and rond de jambes (leg circles) in slow motion. While the dancers commendably took on the challenge of sustained movement, these technical steps never came without any sense of inevitability, as though they were just that—steps, or instructed movements without much emotional or intellectual intent behind them.
Vàsanti: The Guardians of Light by Jovon Miller provided a contrast to the steady slowness of krāv. According to the program note, the piece told the story of the “protectors of light and their journey to rebuild their empire after losing the great war to their nemesis, The Lords of Darkness.” The story was mostly explained through narration in the beginning and end of the piece without much connection to the choreography. But ultimately, the dynamic choreography shone by itself. Miller combined various forms of jazz dance, contemporary, hip-hop, and lyrical, and the dancers executed the difficult jumps and series of whipped turns with skill and spunk.
Despite the highs and lows of the show, Full Tilt managed to feature a variety of choreographers from different styles—exhibiting the wide and diverse range of talent in Seattle.
More information on Full Tilt and Evoke Productions can be found on their website.