Velocity’s 2017 artist in residence, Kate Wallich, is well known through her work with her company, the YC. Her latest project, the YC2, in the tradition of many “second companies” like Taylor 2 and Ailey II, is comprised of young professional dancers. Wallich seeks to provide artistic mentorship, continued training, and help company members develop a sense of creative agency. YC2: New Dances is their first show, made up of two new works. The first, by Wallich, called A time that once was and now is gone, showcases movement that is spatially specific and shifts in and out of synchronization.
The piece begins with a simple, but hypnotizing structure. Two dancers dressed in a stark uniform of black and white, perfectly synchronized, repeat a phrase alternating between gesture, measuring space with their bodies, and precise changes in facing. Blank faces and complete uniformity draw attention to the space between the dancers. Other pairs enter, portraying a trancelike quality with their faces, in contrast with their complete physical control and sharp gestures. Moments of anticipation build and dissipate as dancers draw close together, seemingly oblivious to one another, before the movement swiftly separates them again.
As the pulsing, electronic live music by Aaron Otheim drones louder and louder, dancer Sean Rosado is suspended in stillness, the only movement his blinking eyes. Pairs of dancers move around him. Some become stuck in the repetitive pathway of walking forwards and backwards, just barely avoiding collisions with Rosado, and weaving through performers repeating sharp and specific gestures. The dancers gradually shift apart into individual patterns, until all we can see is the repetition of one pathway. Molly Levy extends her leg high to the side, over and over, holding it there until it no longer seems possible. Rosado executes a series of intricately precise turns, repeating sets of four or five spirals around himself before coming to perfect stillness as if unaffected by momentum.
Wallich’s choreography offers a window into her dancers’ technical skill, but the precise and matter-of-fact quality of the movement keeps it from being showy. Throughout the piece individuals, pairs, and the whole group draw in and out of focus, a simple and clear statement about the beauty of repetition and uniform movement. The fleeting, but never-quite-there connections between the dancers creates a yearning for recognition and interaction.
Herd | Site, choreographed by David Harvey, a Seattle based artist who has worked extensively with Alonzo King Lines Ballet, provided a contrast to Wallich’s highly organized first half of the show. Dancers in rich colors, scurry across a diagonal on all fours. They collapse, one by one, and run backwards to start the diagonal again. Flocking together as they travel from one side of the stage to the other on just their toes, the ensemble seems more animal than human. There is never one leader, and the group is always shifting facing or rearranging who is in front. It seems they are moving in migration patterns, creating a collective memory of how to journey from place to place.
As the flocking patterns repeat and disintegrate, the group of eight divides into pairs, each performing a conversation that is reminiscent of an animal mating dance. They pull their partners close with curiosity, pressing chin to chin and forehead to forehead. In contrast to the oblivious and distant quality in Wallich’s piece, these interactions are direct and intimate. Dancers Tariq Mitri and Emma Wheeler are left onstage as the other couples exit, creature-like. Mitri performs a solo that is explosive and simultaneously soft, drawing attention to the loss of the group with probing limbs that recoil suddenly. He too leaves, and Wheeler is left alone with no group to guide her. She remembers the spatial pathways of the group, revisiting the scurrying, hopping, and scooting pathways on her own, one body echoing the memory of her herd.
The distinct feeling of each piece in the show was welcome, and allowed the dancers to find creative ownership over different performative qualities. Harvey’s movement vocabulary pushed the dancers out of a ballet and modern-based idiom and into peculiarly animalistic ways of moving, and the company proved to be equally adept at his textured and flighty vocabulary as well as Wallich’s highly technical choreography. As an incubator for both performers and choreographers, YC2 shows promise, and has a solid foundation from which to push creative boundaries even further as the group develops.
YC2: New Dances, featuring work by Kate Wallich and David Harvey was performed at Velocity Dance Center October 20-21. Find more information about the performance here: http://velocitydancecenter.org/program/yc2/