Large scale and transformative, Kinesis Project took on the space between an urban backdrop and the natural world beyond in Traces of Us last weekend. From their scattered shouts over the noise of the Alaskan Way Viaduct to their tight gathering at the waterfront edge, gesturing at the sunset, the dancers delighted and awed throughout.
The ghostly silhouette of the Olympics, preparing for sunset beyond the Sound, seemed to welcome the honor of the dancers’ reach in their direction. The long orange fabric train created by Celeste Cooning was impossible to miss, a beacon for audience members even among the tourists and glaring slant of evening light. Thankfully, free sunglasses were provided. We watched a line of dancers unwind, unfold, and carry the long swath of intricately cut fabric over the park and down the stairs, to lay it on the wooden planks, where it was not gathered up again until the final moments of the show. It acted as an extension of the very sunset itself, a clue as to just how large scale this work would be.
Melissa Riker’s choreography led the nearly dozen dancers onto the tops of walls, up and down stairs, along railings, and in and out of corners all along the downtown open space beside the Aquarium. The action often occurred simultaneously and it was enjoyable to follow the dancers around the park, anticipating the next duet to break off or the next leg lift from behind a tree. With the audience members, tourists, and vast length of the waterfront walkway, it was hard to follow the choreography at all times, but it was satisfying just knowing dance was happening in among the summer swarms.
Kinesis Project requires mindful watching: don’t assume you should look in only one direction, or that the action is going to look a certain way. It may be near stillness, accompanied by words. It may be energetic—pushing, inviting, and embracing among a group of dancers by the trees. It may be running in many directions. To watch Traces of Us is to constantly wonder if you’ve missed anything, but the beauty of it is that no two viewers have the same experience.
Against the harsh angles of freeway viaduct, concrete walls, and the stark geometric fountain, the dancers smoothly and effortlessly flowed through the public space. Their use of gentle lifts and close pull-push movements in duets created a tender intimacy which we observed from outside, but also moved with as we made room, followed behind, or shifted weight. One dancer held another as she sat atop the railing over the water, leaning in and out intimately, the tenderness of it making us forget the danger of a fall. Even the more humorous moments, like when dancer Michelle Amara Micca suddenly addressed a stunned group of onlookers with “have you seen my friend?” and proceeded to talk at them about real or fictitious friends, she was carried off by two fellow dancers elegantly and with barely more tension than a rag doll. At each close contact or near encounter of dancer and viewer throughout this show, the audience member couldn’t help but smile, even if they narrowly escaped a high leg in the chin, or if they were essentially rolled over as a duet performed turns and spins along the length of the dock’s railing. There was no jarring movement here, no aggression or sharp explosions of bodies. In fact, the dancers smiled at each other often.
Musicians accompanied the work from under a tent at the opposite end of the dock from the action, and while the music did get a little lost at moments under the layers of freeway and fountain noise, it was fundamental to the energy of collaboration, surprise, and play. The show finished appropriately with bluegrass style music, and dancers from the company invited audience members to dance with them. This intentional recognition of shared space successfully furthered the communal, jovial experience.
This show is playful on its surface, and all through it runs a deep vein of contemplation about what it means to pull humans into space together, to witness each other in movement whether intentional, improvised, or purely accidental. Kinesis Project has produced a vivid experience of shared time and space; both dancers and audience members must be mindful of every surface, every action, and must welcome surprise.
Kinesis Project is led by Melissa Riker. The company performed at Waterfront Park on July 21 and 22, at 4:30 and 7:30pm.