Nine seconds into Converge Dance Festival and there’s already been an ending. 116 endings by Meredith Pellon has just that, 116 9-second vignettes with 116 full, lights-out finishes. The pattern is simple, and repeats – you guessed it – 116 times. The lights flicker on, the dancers move with bladed hands and sharp motions, nine seconds later they fall into a stark pose or a gentle movement, then – blackout. The music, a scratchy record sound with carousel-like melody, loops constantly.
The full page of program notes for 116 endings guides the audience through, providing choreographic insight while intrinsically offering a profound and whimsical poem. Every nine seconds has its own title, each beginning with “The end.” There’s “The end of a line from the right pointer finger to the left pinky toe,” titling the 3rd vignette, “The end of wearing that pair of shoes” showing relatable nostalgia at the 37th end, “The end of my attention span,” comically titles the 40th, and the final, destitute 116th, “the end of a crumling horizon.”
116 endings had a high potential to be annoying, with all the starting and stopping, lights on and off, but the artistic play of performing only endings, and the poetic commentary of the program notes, all came together to produce a really entertaining and unique piece.
In fact, the 2019 Converge Dance Festival, which showcases emerging to mid-career artists, had many entertaining and unique pieces.
Perhaps the most comically entertaining, laugh-out-loud funny, was Do You Remember What You Had For Breakfast? by Peter Kohring, in collaboration with the performers. A tribute to dance-related pop culture, Do You Remember spliced together everything iconic: the heart string-pulling lift in Dirty Dancing’s Time of My Life, High School Musical’s bounce-bounce clap routine We’re All in this Together, Mean Girls’ inappropriately sexy, slap-your-thighs Jingle Bell Rock, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s “Carlton” dancing, and the always classic tombé-pas-de-bourrée-glissade-grand-jeté to the Can-can.
The Wonderland, choreographed by Beth Terwilleger, also displayed a keen sense of humor. Performer Bri Wilson started the piece, with her midriff wrapped in long satin fabric, laying on the floor, forehead pressing on a journal and arm poised in a pushup position as French café music played. A hooded figure, dancer Corbin Hall, revealed tall, black bunny ears, soon thrusting his pelvis. Hall, as the bunny, pulled Wilson around throughout the piece, wrapping her in the silken fabric, and always, always shaking his hips. The devilish bunny was ripe for symbolism – the imposition of writer’s block, the loss of control in a bad relationship, the seemingly defenseless façade of those who actually pull the strings. Or perhaps it was all just a simple ode to Alice and the White Rabbit.
Both Caitlyn Lamdin’s The Clamor Before the Calm and Leah Russell’s Self-Care, Sabotage, Repeat played with concepts of finding strength in community. The Clamor Before the Calm routinely featured one dancer flopped on the back of another, the two moving slowly and hunched over. Often multiple pairings trudged at once, amassing of an army of tired, deadened bodies held up by steady and struggling dancers – an apt metaphor for relying on friendship and community for strength. Hard-hitting, musically oriented jazz and hip hop moves broke up the floppy-ness, adding power to moments of unified dancing. The climax of the piece was a clump of dancers, first ticking to small electronic beats, all coming together to lift one dancer towards the sky, throwing her out to the ethers, then supporting her return back to gravity, operating as whole that could do more than its parts.
Self-Care, Sabotage, Repeat as the title suggests, dealt with the hard journey of practicing self-care, and seemed to advocate a more community-focused approach. Multiple times, dancers kneeling alone nodded their heads neutrotically while folding their hands in on themselves, emphatically encouraging themselves to do better, as if yes I should do this, yes I’ll do this ran through their heads. The piece took a sharp turn as the music cut off and the dancers began talking. “You got this, do this at least,” one dancer calls as they lift and drag another ragdoll-like dancer, as if chiding an intoxicated friend. With this, the mood shifted from isolated anxiety to one of community-care and helping each other.
The most classically-influenced performance of the night was Ellensburg Dance Collective’s The Kiln. A refreshing representation of dance from Eastern Washington, The Kiln showcased four dancers acting as both potters and pottery to the sounds of crackling fire and soft piano music. Often the dancers’ hands were twirling around each other, both outstretched and from the wrist, as well as pulled inwards and from the elbow, referencing the graceful movements common of ceramic artists. As three dancers wistfully looked down at their wrists, like checking their watch, one dancer lunged deeply in the corner, rocking frantically and switching her feet, perhaps anxious to await the finished product or representative of the chaotic energy laden in the fire-baking of ceramics itself.
The Converge Dance Festival of 2019 held necessary space for emerging dance artists and artistic voices we don’t commonly hear. Both entertaining and unique, the performances of Converge predict a bright and creative future for Seattle’s dance scene.
Converge Dance Festival ran May 17 and 18, 2019 at Velocity Dance Center Founders Studio, produced by Constanze Villines, and assistant produced by Emily Curtiss, Caitlyn Lamdin, and Prasti Purdum.