In its tenth year running, Seattle Theater Group’s Global Party celebrated the diversity of movement in a showcase of cultural dances from around the world. This year’s program featured dances from North America, South America, Asia, and the Pacific––from tap and hip hop to Mexican folk dance, Argentine Tango, Brazilian, Chinese, and Tahitian dance forms. Alchemy Tap Project and Bailadores de Bronce (Mexican Folk) had the crowd roaring as they busted out complex rhythms in conjunction with smooth technical execution, while the Melody Institute brought graceful, colorful images to the stage with multi-hued silks and shimmering costumes. A one-night-only event on November 9, Global Party was an evening of joy and excitement with successes all around.
Bailadores de Bronce kicked off the night with dances to mariachi music from the Bajio region of Colima, Mexico. Women in pink-trimmed white dressed and floral headpieces danced alongside hat-clad men, moving in and out of formations with intricate, audible footwork. The poised epaulement, or shouldering, of the female dancers as they moved towards and around their partners, and the strong unison male trio had the audience whooping with glee.
Bailadores de Bronce’s second work, Nayarit, was an image of sheer beauty. Wearing long, brightly colored, multi-layered dresses, the women in Nayarit resembled butterflies, tilting on a backwards diagonal and lifting their skirts behind their heads to create a recurring, thematic shape throughout the piece. They moved forward and backward, sweeping their skirts in and out to create stunning visual color palates, all the while maintaining rhythmic and gestural unison; if Colima was a joyful celebration, Nayarit was a showcase of pure technical talent.
Performed and choreographed by Carlos and Maureen Urrego, the Argentine Tango that followed was traditionally connected, sensual, and sharp. While the dancers’ arms and legs appeared stiff and not fully extended, the impressive speed of the their leg hooks and extensive use of the space gave Quejas de Bandoneón an element of stark precision. Nanave Radford’s hip hop work Urbyn Byrd had a similar starkness; the dark lighting, use of spotlight, and interspersed solos and group unison made for a performance shrouded in both seriousness and expressivity.
In a visual twist, the Chinese dancers of the Melody Institute and Tahitian dancers of Te Fare O Tamatoa offered bright colors and a mix of ideas. In Ying Yang and Five Elements, dancers of all ages embodied wood, fire, earth, metal, and water, transitioning from dramatic fight scenes with floor work and prop fans, to delicate, formational phrases with white, flowing silks. Tiurai, meanwhile, performed by Te Fare O Tamatoa, reflected Tahiti’s annual celebration of Polynesian culture and had dancers in purple skirts performing rhythmic hip isolations––in a demonstration of immense core strength––while a male soloist performed in their midst. Both groups offered a display of beautiful costumes and very different themes in each of their two offerings.
Bahia In Motion presented Volta do Mundo Funk and Bahia in Motion, both choreographed by Daniel Nery dos Santos and Aileen Panke. The prior was an exploration of Capoeira and dances from northeastern Brazil, and the later, a dance of the Brazilian goddess Iansã. Volta do Mundo Funk had dancers kicking and cartwheeling, maintaining low stances as they hit a strong downbeat, shifting from strong angular upper bodies into loose natural stances. Chest isolations and rhythmic footwork were elements of both dances, as were strong, expansive movements.
While the works were entertaining for an audience member unfamiliar with Brazilian dance, some Brazilian artists in the audience found the works offensive and inauthentic. In speaking with one Brazilian choreographer after the show, the “Zumba influence” and Capoeira elements in both works watered down the true nature of traditional Brazilian dance, making it uncomfortable to watch. However it was the portrayal of the Brazilian Orixá, a goddess and a religious symbol of worship, that made Danca do Vento and the Finale particularly upsetting for some viewers. Iansã––the Brazilian Orixá, a goddess, representative of wind, lighting, and thunder––was portrayed on stage not to traditional music of the Orixás, but to Carnival music and was later seen performing hip hop, tap, and other dance styles in Finale. The same viewer alluded to these out-of-context representations as disrespectful trivialisations of the sacred nature of the deity and the religion from which it comes. While both works were fun to watch and athletic, reactions by individual Brazilian audience members left Bahia In Motion with feedback for more growth.
Alongside the Mexican folk dancers of Bailadores de Bronce, tappers of Alchemy Tap Project took the cake for their outstanding artistry. Stick To It, choreographed by Josh Scribner, was described in the program as “a demonstration of multi-level polyrhythms and coordination” and it was nothing less. Using drumsticks for rhythmic articulation as well as tap shoes, Alchemy Tap Project demonstrated impeccable unison in its execution of complex, ever-evolving rhythms; from cannons that never missed a beat, to movement patterns that transitioned through equally interesting formations, Stick To It was an audience favorite. The company pulled out all of the stops, however, with The Muse’s Dream, wherein a clearly talented group of tappers demonstrated their true versatility as trained artists, nailing lyrical hip hop phrases and classically executed arabesque turns within exacting footwork. The Muse’s Dream was a showcase of musicality, young talent, and choreographic strength.
Global Party was just that: a party and celebration of differences and shared strengths. The dances blended into one another from end to end, and culminated in a single, multi-disciplinary Finale choreographed by Maya Soto. For a production which seeks to honor global diversity, it was disappointing that several groups had so few people of color, but all in all, Global Party was fun, energetic, and full of technical talent from around the community and globe.