The image from Animal Nature that stays with me most is not the evening’s MC opening in onesie pajamas, as fun as it is to recall. Instead I can’t shake the whole Jerboa Dance company slithering, rolling, bending and reaching, and eventually peeling themselves off the floor and into various solos and duets, accompanied by live electric violin and electronic music. Haunting melodies and soft human bodies evoked a warm forest night; Jerboa Dance invited the audience into a contemplation of sensuality and our human nature in this piece, though it wasn’t the only perspective on the jungle theme. In another piece, the company gave Rockette kicks and in others there were bird and cat costumes meant to draw smiles. The talented dancers of Jerboa Dance satisfied us with a range of emotion, and unfurled surprises like kids having fun at their own birthday party. A rollicking, witty atmosphere permeated the cabaret-style show, and clear enjoyment radiated from the audience throughout.
Company member Alex Ung choreographed a small group piece that dressed dancers in jungle cat costumes and created feline, jazzy poses. It was as graceful as it was flirtatious. Jaime Waliczek, the group’s artistic director and choreographer of many of the pieces, displayed her acrobatic style most impressively in her acro yoga duet, but it was present in all her choreography throughout the night. Along with rollicking fun, elegant, pensive moments carried us through the emotions that came between the chuckles. The company executed unexpected, graceful lifts, Waliczek was rolled over a fellow dancer’s back effortlessly, and brief acrobatics erupted between the dancers, holding one another aloft or supporting another’s back bend. The interaction and support between dancers created the core of what made the show feel so good to watch. Waliczek herself had some of the most confident energy on stage and left us all impressed, pleased, and eager for more of what she dished out.
Waliczeck’s choreography was sweet, lyrical, and strong, and her bio states that she is returning to this work after a break to start a family; suggesting a new beginning for this company. Jerboa Dance is made up of nine diverse dancers from local, national, and even international backgrounds in modern dance, gymnastics, and hip hop dance to name a few. Some members, like Karen Grady, have been involved with Jerboa Dance since as early as 2002, while Ung is in his second year performing with the group. Stella Kutz, a Seattle-born company member, is also an organizer behind the venue for the show, Georgetown’s Yaw Theater.
Jerboa did a great job putting together the whole evening, welcoming guests that complemented their own work well—drag, burlesque, and breathtaking circus arts. Emma Curtiss performed on her acrobatic wheel, spinning inside a simple hoop at different velocities and angles. Andrew Scott, the energetic drag queen, displayed precision and presence as he nimbly maneuvered leg lifts over his chair and bounced out of deep squats with endless energy. These additions helped to pull the whole evening together, adding an edge to the grace, lyricism, and humor of the dance works.
It was a funny, ironic night doused with just enough raunch. Sensuality and sexuality is supposed to be fun, the whole evening exclaimed. Especially the ridiculous final number, involving silly string and glittering unicorn horns. With this tight cast and their bold physicality, expect great things to come from Jerboa. They have only taken the first few steps down the jungle path, and I look forward to seeing what madness may erupt from the dense forest.
Animal Nature, produced by Jerboa Dance, was presented February 9, 10, and 11 at Yaw Theater in Seattle. The company members include Alex Ung, Andrés Lopez, Christina Johnson, Constanze Villines, Jaime Waliczek, Karan Grady, Renado Tozer, Sean Calavan, and Stella Kutz.