Originally established by Ariella Brown, Karen Grady-Brown, Victoria Jacobs, Sarah Seder, Lilah Steece, and Amy Weaver of Sapience Dance Collective, 2018 marks Director Angelica DeLashmette’s final year producing Converge Dance Festival. Returning to its home of many years, Velocity Dance Center, this iteration of the showcase featured eight different choreographers, as well as a dance film by Erin Nicole-Boyt, which did not run when I attended the festival, due to technical difficulties. This well-attended and established festival has had several directors throughout its six-year run, so stay tuned for the upcoming announcement of who will take the reins from DeLashmette as she departs to pursue a postgraduate degree.
Performed mostly in silence, in Jordan MacIntosh-Hougham’s Tantrum Like Noises, five dancers flawlessly executed their phrase work as if caught up in their own personal musings, then came together into a robust horizontal line across the stage for unison gestures. The work featured pedestrian phrases performed with nonchalance in informal jeans and cords, uninhibited by the audience’s gaze. Utilizing varied sequences of fresh and uncommon movement vocabulary, the dancers gesticulated, paced, and casually swung their limbs, sometimes mumbling or singing quietly to themselves. MacIntosh-Hougham avoided the usual formalistic dance moves in favor of postmodern, perfunctory movements that referenced Yvonne Rainier’s seminal Trio A, in which Rainier strove not to repeat any movements throughout the entire piece. In a cheeky series of entrances and exits that established and then thwarted audience expectations, Tantrum Like Noises later acknowledged and cleverly commented on the audience’s presence. This pattern resulted in several humorous moments with dancers entering the space wearing large, plastic rain ponchos but carrying on as if nothing had changed. Then, when one dancer entered the space carrying a chair as if to establish a relationship with the prop, another dancer with a chair also appeared, only to pointedly ignore it. The playful work rose to a fever pitch when a dancer struggled at length to take off a poncho made of loud, crinkly fabric. With lighting designed by Evan Price, the final image of Tantrum Like Noises lingered hauntingly: a zombie parade of jolts and jerks promenaded across the stage, illuminated from the back by video projection, the silhouettes of their ponchos taking on a ghostly aspect.
A trigger warning for And I Called It Love, choreographed by Abigail Zimmerman, was printed in the program and announced at the opening of the festival, although the piece did not contain any graphic depictions of domestic violence. Indeed, if not for Audre Lorde’s text, played at the end of the work (and also contained in the program note) the piece may well have been interpreted as an abstract exploration of nearly any dark theme. With their light, swoopy, and fluid movement qualities, these dancers did not allow themselves to be victimized, but instead embodied a quiet inner strength, belying the “terror” and “fear” referred to in the text.
Another quintet, Stephanie Golden’s The Silent Majority, opened on the dancers thrashing together in straitjackets. The work’s title calls to mind Nixon’s historic appeal for support from those not noisily demonstrating against the Vietnam War and draws a parallel to the current political climate, in which many find frustrating the nation’s overwhelming apathy and tacit compliance with the status quo. Golden’s dancers urgently freed themselves from their encumbering costumes, their energetic exertions encouraged by a pounding electronic beat. Further referencing the US’s political deadlock and apparent stalling of progress on pressing social matters, the dancers utilized silent screams, their faces nearly tearing apart in futile expressions of distress and fury. Golden’s work stood out in the evening’s lengthy lineup for its dynamic swells, in which the dancers progressed through cycles of anger, frenetic struggling, exhaustion, apathy, and back again to another frenzy. A cooperative partnering section at the end of the work suggested optimistically that only by leaning on one another can we hope to survive the current political turmoil.
In Shoal, created by Hope Goldman and her cast of six, the dancers performed a series of task-based structured improvisations without musical accompaniment, progressing ever closer toward the audience. Their movement vocabulary contained a kind of obscure logical progression, as if each new task had been dictated as a reaction to the previous action. Tension mounted as the dancers edged downstage to the border of the stage, nearly on the toes of the front row audience. Shoal climaxed in a delicious frenzy of discomfort when the dancers’ quirky sounds and fragments of text increased in volume into shrieks. Goldman’s piece embraced the postmodern convention that each hand wave, facial expression, or static pose constitutes a dance move, no matter how seemingly incomprehensible or nonsensical.
The eight works in this year’s festival, which also included Emily Curtiss, Angelica DeLashmette, Jordan Rohrs, and Warren Woo, largely lacked distinction from one another. All but one of the works featured small casts of five or six dancers, and several cast members performed in more than one work, which is disappointing in a festival setting that could provide the valuable opportunity for artists to meet and work with others outside their usual group of collaborators. Many choreographers used the familiar trope of each dancer performing their own phrase in dissonance with one another, only to finish with a unison section, the effect of which was to create a dynamic flatness when seen repetitively. Perhaps by coincidence, many works also utilized long breaks of silence and overused quiet, durational aspects, which caused the ambitious presentation of eight pieces to lose momentum and imbued the works with an intention of preciousness that quickly became tiresome. Nonetheless, Converge Dance Festival has been a local establishment for six years, and its loss would be a great detriment to the Seattle dance community. The evening’s most compelling works on the program were the eclectic pieces that set themselves apart in some unexpected way, showcasing the choreographer’s unique fingerprints and distinct style.
Converge Dance Festival has a mission to support Pacific Northwest Dance Artists by producing this annual festival which serves as a resource for emerging to mid-career artists. The festival has a focus on innovation, building community, collaboration and creating space for artists to grow their ideas and take risks in their creative work. For more information about Sapience Dance Collective and Converge Dance Festival, please visit HERE.