The three-week Seattle International Dance Festival culminated Saturday, June 27, at the Moore Theatre. The program boasted work by choreographers Alejandro Chávez, Donald Byrd, and Cyrus Khambatta, as well as a substantial audience of dance enthusiasts and artists alike. Although the program as a compositional whole had strengths and weaknesses, every one of the dancers brought a new level of artistic, athletic, and technical expertise to the stage with grace and humility, making for a compelling show overall. At ten years and counting, SIDF has made its mark yet again on Seattle dance.
First onstage was a work choreographed Alejandro Chávez. Chávez–a Mexican dancer/choreographer and artistic director of Ciudad Interior–presented Kinetica, which was danced with strength and technical prowess. Five performers clad in white, skin-tight outfits danced on and around a small table pushed against the upstage wall in groups or, more often, as soloists. Their images were projected behind them against the upstage wall in varying degrees of focus, reflecting or abstracting the onscreen dancers into green, pixelated versions of themselves. The flesh-and-blood dancers balanced and slid against the wall, suspended one another atop the table, or inverted themselves in interesting shapes; they created mind-bending images as their onscreen personas doubled, tripled, quadrupled their illusions. Despite Chávez’s innovative use of technology and overall choreographic concept, Kinetica still felt about thirty-five minutes too long. It was repetitive, but without elaboration or a climactic arc: solo after solo of roughly the same material made for an uncomfortably long performance that began to feel self-indulgent by the 20-minute mark. The dancers were brilliant, showcasing their flexibility, technique, and artistic capabilities throughout; however, a more condensed compositional score would have made a more absorbing audience experience.
Donald Byrd’s Piston hit the nail on the head with regard to length and compositional flow. Dancers Alex Crozier, Jade Solomon Curtis, Madelyn Koch, and Andrew Pontius of Seattle’s Spectrum Dance Theater were utterly mesmerizing in their technical strength: they were poised, statuesque, facile, and articulate–true masters of their field. The choreography itself was balletic, using classical vocabulary with a contemporary twist. Composed of duets and trios, the fast-paced movement consisted of linear whipping of the arms and legs, classical leap phrases, tight turns, and partner work that emphasized precision as a valuable tool. A beautiful vignette, Piston was well-composed on all fronts.
Spectrum dancers took the stage again for the final performance of the evening in Khambatta’s Truth and Betrayal, an abstracted commentary on the complexities of human relationships. The work began as a duet in a downstage spotlight, the woman lunging as if to escape the man behind her, or collapsing to the floor and returning quickly to standing in spurts of momentary renunciation. It then transformed into a broader series of solos, duets, and group work riddled with poised lifts, suspensions, and spinal articulations. The dancers were just as stunning in Truth and Betrayal as they were in Piston, but they stepped up the vitality of their performance to match the emotive quality demanded by the choreography to great success. Although the work ended with more reiteration of beginning material than was necessary, Truth and Betrayal provided a stark and deep examination of what it means to love and to hate as well as anything in between.
Last weekend’s program at the Moore brought the tenth annual SIDF to a strong finish. From Chávez’s techy Kinetica to Byrd’s and Khambatta’s more classical works, the choreography was as diverse as the festival’s contributors. Overall, the choreography could have used more editing, but in the end, it was the dancers themselves who carried the show and carry it they did, with strength and vigor.
Seattle International Dance Festival ran June 12-27, 2015. For more information on SIDF, visit the festival’s website.