A biennial festival seeking to support PNW dance, BOOST Dance Festival returned from hiatus last weekend, May 29-30, taking over its new location at Broadway Performance Hall. Boasting nine artists in a single night, BOOST lived up to its reputation of being a little long-winded, but this year’s lineup offered a good balance of styles that certainly had a little something for everyone.
Fans of full-bodied movement had plenty to chew on. Alicia Mullikin, queen of high-flying lifts and dramatic drops to the floor, presented Claro, a duet between the enormously talented dancers Cheryl Delostrinos and Samuel Picart. Marlo Martin’s newest group work, Theory 9: Study One, set her expressive movement in an almost clinical setting, with creative use of examination tables and dangling fluorescent lights. The cool downlighting flicked on and off, making the dancers pop and creating an unsettling atmosphere. Michele Miller’s excerpt from Resistance also creatively used set pieces—a giant box and dangling ropes. Her dancers exuded power as they punched and stomped in unison, then used the ropes to assist partnering work. Miller’s and Martin’s works hinted at a story, but both felt like excerpts of a larger arc. Indeed, an evening-length version of Miller’s goes up September 23–24, also at Broadway Performance Hall.
Two works, including Bryon Carr’s Juggling the World Forward, seemed to be studies in form. Juggling was staged in front of projected abstract paintings by Teresa Getty; the dancers moved in fluid sweeps between formations, becoming living manifestations of the brushstrokes. Formations also played a part in Pasture, choreographed by Stephanie Liapis, where the use of space recalled Paul Taylor—the six dancers moved in and out of pairs, and the pairs around each other. This formality was interspersed with some animal-informed movement—hands held by the wrist like little paws and show pony prances. Well rehearsed, the dancers’ clean movements stopped, started, redirected on a dime, and moved seamlessly between modern dance moves and bovine-influenced social dance.
Work by recent UW grad Imana Gunawan seems to be popping up everywhere these days, and it’s worth keeping an eye out for this prolific choreographer. Diamonds (in two parts) used six dancers to create fast-paced and layered rhythms. This fantastic sense of rhythm was also carried through to a series of fierce duets. The work lost its clarity a bit in the group unison sections, but all was redeemed in the second half. Changing from their sleek black sportswear, the dancers re-entered in long gowns. A chain of dancers connected at the elbows rippled through the space like a caterpillar, each performer an echo of the tall blonde woman in front. The incongruity of this image with the music, Nina Simone’s iconic “Brown Baby,” could only have been a statement—a symbolic reminder that the actions of white people are made possible by a chain of less visible, and less white, people. Fortunately, each of the dancers was then given a moment in the spotlight in a series of stunning solos.
Two works explored theatrical, dreamlike worlds with everything but the kitchen sink on stage. Laura Beth Rodriguez’s Surrealism—Part 141 felt almost operatic in scale. Rodriguez danced the entire piece constrained by two thick ropes extending from her waist, often manipulated by characters in large gold wolf and rabbit headpieces. A quartet of dancers in 1940s period attire pranced through the space, at first gracefully, but over time losing control and tumbling around, powerless against an invisible force. Another character in a suit seemed to be outside it all looking in. It was a bit overwhelming, but each element was fascinating. With polished dancing and design elements, the piece is practically begging to be expanded into an evening-length work.
The other theatrical work, Amy Johnson and Markeith Wiley’s A Savage Journey, Part 1: Strange Medicine in the Desert, was certainly the most comedic and absurdist of the bunch. Playing two nerdy characters in Hawaiian shirts, the lost pair started off wearing headlamps and singing a song about Debbie Reynolds and ended in an air guitar-off with an inexplicable man who inexplicably wore a bat costume. Johnson and Wiley’s use of non sequiturs was at once delightful and thought provoking. Instead of a neat package of meaning, the duo delivered something to dive into. Hopefully, there will be a Part 2 of Savage Journey, because you’ll want to get lost in the desert with this unpredictable pair.
Learn more about this year’s artists and BOOST Dance Festival at Boostdancefestival.org.