Conflict and Cohesion at Strictly Seattle

Maximum Velocity, presented by Velocity Dance Center, kicked off with the final showcase for their three week dance intensive, Strictly Seattle. This production highlights up and coming dancers from across the nation as well as Seattle’s vibrant base of established choreographers. This year’s show, at Broadway Performance Hall on July 30, surpassed its function as a recital and emerged as a cohesive evening with common threads intertwining the works. Whether intentionally, or perhaps as a reflection of the social unrest and upheaval weighing heavily on the collective subconscious, motifs of fighting, conflict, and grappling with the Other connected several of the pieces presented at Strictly this year.

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Dancers in Marlo Martin’s Fight Flight Freeze
Photo by Tim Summers

PULSE, choreographed by Rosa Vissers, began the evening. The dancers performed rolling, undulating canons of simple gestures, creating swelling waves across the space. Their pedestrian costumes and clear unison drew the eye to the compelling differences in style and physicality of this diverse cast. The work branched off into fast-paced, risky partnering and lifts, but concluded satisfyingly with the image of swaying ripples from the opening.

 

Marlo Martin’s Fight Flight Freeze called to mind humans’ biological responses to fear. Two strings of small red lights reached across the stage on the floor, creating a treadmill effect. As flashes of light, designed by Lynne Ellis, illuminated the dancers, they ran, leapt, and paused on the track, hunting one another. Like PULSE, the work evolved into a section of partnering in which the dancers grappled and fought. The weighty finale of Martin’s piece resounded with the strength and power that can be found in overcoming adversity.

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Dancers in Zoe Scofield’s eleven, redux.
Photo by Tim Summers

Joy as an Act of Resistance, by Mark Haim, featured material created by its cast and Joy Hou, juxtaposed in a joyful mashup. The dancers’ clothing echoed the theme of disparate elements coming together—each wore colors, patterns, and textures of his or her unique style. The music continuously changed and overlapped in unexpected ways, mirroring the structure of seemingly unrelated material whimsically placed side by side. As usual, Haim’s master touch lies in his ability to create work that appears random but in reality encompasses complex and intentional patterns.

 

Strictly also featured a series of student-created dance films. Highlights included one depicting a forest creature (Christina Stout) crawling from a tree covered in moss and grit, and another in which three scantily-clad, fur-coated dancers faced off in an abandoned parking lot (as directed by Allexa Laycock).

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Dancers in Amy O’Neal’s Again, there is no Other
Photo by Tim Summers

Zoe Scofield revisited her memorable work, eleven, redux. of the blue ombre tights, set to the familiar tones of Ravel’s “Boléro”. In this iteration, the dancers evolved from the low to high level more quickly, striking mannequin-like poses reminiscent of pin-up posters. Moving through open positions of center splits and pulsing in deep squats, the performers deconstructed recognizable ballet images such as petit allegro and steps quoted from Swan Lake’s famous “Dance of the Little Swans.” Their arched backs, nude leotards, and haughty gazes lent the work an oddly sexual undertone that read as a further comment on the eroticization of ballet.

 

Amy O’Neal’s Again, there is no Other, closed the evening. The eleven dancers, clad in bold t-shirts and athletic pants, played with duration and time as they ran in slow-motion toward the audience, either fleeing the past or representing sluggish progress toward change in the future. Always, one dancer was singled out as the Other against the group. By the end of the work, however, this message of oppression in difference was replaced by a celebration of the individual and diversity.

 

Alice Gosti presented My eyes, you can have them, which contained similar material to her durational work, Bodies of Water, performed on July 16. An in-depth look at this piece can be found HERE.

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Michelle Beard in Alice Gosti’s My eyes, you can have them
Photo by Tim Summers

Strictly Seattle once again succeeded in opening a tantalizing window on new local talent, including many fresh faces attracted by the city’s hub of dance opportunity. Maximum Velocity continues next week with Seattle Festival of Dance Improvisation (SFDI), with a final performance on August 4, at the Erickson Theatre. For more information on Velocity Dance Center’s programs, visit their website HERE.

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