CONFLICT, CONNECTION, COMEDY

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Now in its 11th year, Full Tilt continues to provide an avenue for Seattle dancers to meet, perform in new work, and form lasting connections with both emerging and established choreographers. This year, Evoke Productions invited Hailey Burt, Noelle Price, Sam Picart, Stephanie Golden, and Wade Madsen to showcase their work at Velocity’s Founders Theatre. While in the past, Full Tilt has featured a range of styles, such as jazz and modern, this year’s festival remained within the contemporary genre, with one notable exception.

Photo by Joseph Lambert.

In Stephanie Golden’s Perception, eight dancers wearing green blindfolds tentatively entered the stage, tracing a pathway through a forest of shadeless lamps. When one dancer illuminated an exposed light bulb, she removed her blindfold as if to signify her awakening to a eureka moment. Then the fighting began. Utilizing daredevil stunts such as butterfly jumps and horizontal cartwheels, the dancers pulled each other away from the lamps, or toward them, forcing one another to snuff out each metaphorical idea. A recurring partnering motif, in which the dancers leaned forward shoulder to shoulder as if in a rugby scrum, furthered this sense of disagreement. While the literal content of these flashes of understanding followed by arguments and quashing remained open-ended, in the current political climate, it is difficult not to see the light bulbs as symbols of diverging ideologies. Golden’s eclectic movement vocabulary mirrored her varied musical choice from ambient electronic artists Johann Johannsson and Oliver Tank. The choreography was peppered with running, falling, and jumping into exhilarating lifts,  not to mention the throwback dance move “the worm.” These bursting, potent movements made the space seem too small to contain such energy.

Photo by Joseph Lambert.

Wade Madsen presented Water, a hauntingly beautiful work that I remember seeing in a 2012 Cornish production. As Madsen works in collaboration with the dancers, each iteration of Water is different, and the professional calibre performers of Full Tilt moved with a delicacy and care that reflected their experience. Their hands placed sensitively on the smalls of each other’s backs, the dancers suspended in a line, tipped off-balance, and recovered into new formations, just like waves washing against the shore. Their limbs soft yet precise, the dancers rippled overlapping phrases, the timing building and accumulating across the stage. Like water droplets, each movement, from gesture to lunge to spritely jump, was executed with exquisite attention to detail—an absorbing scrupulousness that drew me in. The dancers’ interactions with each other in duets shared this same gentleness, without being precious or dramatic. One of Madsen’s many masterworks, Water flowed with seamless transitions accomplishing that rare feat of being neither overly joyous nor perfectly polite, but instead pleasurable and refreshing.

Photo by Joseph Lambert.

Sam Picart’s STARS began with five dancers dressed in all black, gliding and locking their way across the stage in low lighting, an ode to the familiar trope of the Hip Hop Dance Crew. Abruptly, the piece took a left turn when the choreographer himself walked onstage, clapping and thanking the audience for attending the “Graceful Grace Awards.” Suddenly, we were in the middle of a televised reality awards show, which had apparently already given out its trophies for “Best Male Dancer” of a variety of genres, to comic effect. Then, Picart introduced a trio of female dancers as last year’s Sexy Black Swan award winners, asking the audience whether they agreed that “black swans are cooler, more athletic, and have longer … necks.” In setting his piece at a fake dance awards ceremony invoking cultural connotations of gender and race, Picart began to build humor into a biting social commentary. Rebecca Smith as Black Swan vogued hilariously in a deadpan version of Swan Lake’s bird arms, supported by her subservient backup dancers. Jordan Rohrs and Michael O’Neal entered next, to begin another dance showcasing O’Neal’s breaking talents, only to be cut off unexpectedly. Picart explained that the awards show had, “filled our hip hop quota. But wasn’t it dynamic, ladies and gentlemen?”, a clear jab at those who recognize hip hop only for its commercial appeal. Picart’s next sections utilized hip hop movement vocabulary in the dynamic, energetic manner that is central to the genre, showcasing Picart’s skill in creating a finessed interplay between movement and music. Did Picart chose to award himself the main prize in his own fake dance award show in order to mock himself, or perhaps to mock or the whole dance awards spectacle? As a real-life Ellen Degeneres dance contest winner, in STARS, Picart seems to ridicule a system that packages and monetizes dance expression for populist consumption.

Photo by Joseph Lambert.

Also on the evening’s program was Float by Hailey Burt, an exploration of translucent balloons, and Noelle Price’s Here I Stand, in which insecurity creeps insidiously into relationships between twinned dancers. For more information on Evoke Productions, please visit HERE.

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