Whim W’him’s Transfigurate is a triple bill with works from Pascal Touzeau, Danielle Agami and Olivier Wevers that asks the company to expertly embody three distinct perspectives. The seven movers show strength and vulnerability in each work. Even if Wevers affectionately refers to his dancers as “superheroes,” this night shows every one of them as human.
Immediately Pascal Touzeau’s Stickers transports us to a land void of comfort. The quick and intricate movement, the dimly lit stage, and the dissonant strings in the sound score gives the audience no other option but to indulge in discomfort. The first image is striking; a trail of performers walking onstage one by one to find their single light bulb right above their head, creating a landscape of intricately moving bodies that supersedes any connection to the individual. Simply woven corsets and mesh bodysuits, designed by Nova Debrev, show of the dancers ravishing limbs. Identically dressed, the male and female performers are indistinguishable from each other, allowing driving factors like power, observance, curiosity, and manipulation to be seen separately from gender. Former performer with Frankfurt Ballet under William Forsythe, Touzeau exemplifies his lineage in the speed, delicacy, and detail-heavy movement. Although each performer is uniform with the rest, Karl Watson stands as an influential catalyst for how each new idea is introduced. Inside his liquid and perceptive movements, his decisions seem calculated yet filled with curiosity. Mia Monteabaro is another standout character whose movement is fast yet indulgent. She breaks apart from the rest of the cast with an exuberant off-balance and limb-extending solo before being pulled back. The strength of this work is purely in how the Forsythe-influenced Touzeau’s movement is interpreted by more contemporary dancers. These performers visibly breath and problem solve on stage, they let themselves be the decisions they make instead of acting or exaggerating them. Even if this work creates all the opportunities to distance the audience, the performers breath humanness into their work and take us along with them in all the discomfort.
Danielle Agami’s Duck Sitting is abruptly lit to reveal all seven of the Whim performers sitting with a calm alertness. Glenn Kotche’s found-sound-percussive score makes this innocent moment just a tad creepy. There’s an internal instinct within the cast to start a new idea, informing how the performers interact with one another. Together they decide when to stand and when to sit. However, a crack starts to form in the group when Liane Aung stands when everyone else sits. The cast begins to single out the individuals who choose not be in synchrony with the rest, both in support and in opposition. The group shows its opposition to Aung simply by not acknowledging her. In contrast, they show clear support of an off kilter and tricky solo from Adrian Hoffman as they mimic filming him with invisible phones. Through these moments, we start to see the satire in being the observed and the ones observing. Our habits and the movements we follow are put on blast: the sometimes arbitrary collective decision to value one thing over another.
In the last work of the evening, Olivier Wevers’ Silent Scream brings together a more whimsical storytelling style with influence from Charlie Chaplin’s speech in “The Great Dictator.” Highlights of this work lie in the duet between Cameron Birts in a polka-dot dress and Tory Piel in her tighty whities. The two reverse typical gender roles, Piel supporting Birts as he flies through the air and shows off his mesmerizing legs and feet, a role historically prescribed to a woman. Piel’s vulnerable dance monologue with Charlie Chaplin’s speech is filled with a quiet disparity. She leaps with little care in shape but drive in moving forward, letting her travel to the edges of the stage. She runs through and around the rest of the cast as they quietly continue to march around the parameter of the stage. This solo stands alone as a plea for change and visibility. The hope this work has is palpable and it thrives in the simplicity of its storytelling.
All together the night was well curated and danced to perfection. The audience follow the gradual evolution of the Whim dancers as they move from the stark primal abstraction of Touzeau’s work to the satire realness of Agami’s, finishing with the imaginative reflection in Wever’s. Even if transfigurate isn’t technically a word, perhaps the evening’s title is suggestive of a certain kind of change–to be vulnerable and accepting of ourselves as having the potential to be both the catalyst and the flock. To create change we need both. -Liz Houlton
Transfigurate played at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center June 8, 9 ,15, and 16 at 8pm.