FROM THE EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK: MAY

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Seattle in spring is a busy time for dance. Sometimes it can be hard to stay on top of it all. Here’s a quick and dirty recap of some of the dance from the last week and things to look forward to.

Alia Swesky’s WHEN YOUR ARMS ACHED…Photo by Jim Coleman.

WHEN YOUR ARMS ACHED, I WATCHED THE MOUNTAIN HOLD ITS FRAGILE FORM
Alia Swesky’s solo show comes to Base: Experimental Arts this weekend, May 17-19. I was lucky to catch an open rehearsal, which revealed the piece to be a raw and deeply personal journey that interrogates “the male gaze” through both the presentation of Swersky’s body, and her own penetrating eye contact with the audience. Swersky’s imagistic landscape traverses trauma, survival, and connection with a holistic and mature attention. A “come-and-go” two-hour durational ritual prefaces the start of the hour-long main solo performance. If this has been on your calendar for a while, be sure to double check the start times, which were recently changed.
Friday and Saturday: Durational ritual 7-9pm, performance at 9:00.
Sunday: Durational ritual 6-8pm, performance at 8:00pm.

Ligia Lewis at On the Boards is denied an artist visa for collaborator.
The much anticipated performances of Ligia Lewis’ two-part performance will continue this weekend, but without one crucial performer, due to an ever-tightening visa process. Artistic Director of OTB, Rachel Cook, states:

“We are living in challenging political times where the movement of bodies around the world is being contested by our government. The openness and porousness of our borders are increasingly tighter and more restrictive. Every time an international artist is presented at On the Boards, we go through a lengthy paperwork process, pay fees for consulate appointments, solicit letters of support from high-profile national colleagues to make a case for the need of their visit, as well as seeking advice and aid of immigration attorneys. We had letters of support from national colleagues. We crossed our T’s, dotted our I’s – and still, denied.”

In a show-must-go-on spirit, the Dominican-American artist who is based in Germany, will re-work Sorrow Swag, and OTB will show a video of the original performance prior to all shows this weekend. If you have tickets, or are planning on attending, please double check showtimes at Ontheboards.org.

tiffana. Photo by Jim Coleman.

Who is Tuya Vale? A new collective presents a thoughtful evening.
Friday May 3, Tuya Vale Artist Collective presented Monomyth I, a one-night-only mixed bill at Velocity Dance Center. The collective was started by painter Ryan Hatfield and dancer Christopher Peterson as a cross-disciplinary platform for experimentation “devoted to critical, introspective discourse, and new ways of thinking.” The stated mission certainly rang true through Monomyth I. Each of the five artists/groups presenting—Sophia Arnall, Christin Call, tiffana, Meredith Pellon, and Maia Veague—showed thoughtfulness and presence in a meditative series of works. The Velocity theater was set up intimately in the round, and ushers stated a no-clapping policy, which allowed the works to gently overlap, flowing from one into another. Tiffany Bierly and Ana Puzycki of tiffana gently rolled across and over one another in a tender investigation of sleeptime cuddles that lasted throughout the entire event, crossing the stage between and during the other pieces. Veague ran an anchored thread across the space and back stage, wrapping an entire wall of the space five times. Like a human-scale cat’s cradle, Veague played inside the series of taught strings, stretching and winding, giving her weight, and framed by the ever-shifting design of her string installation.

Pellon made a long, slow journey on the diagonal, moving glacially between each shape with determined focus. I was almost weary of the duration when, almost at the end, a gentle jazz number suddenly breaks the silence, completely shifting the context of a work after I thought I knew what it was. Like all the artists at Monomyth I, Pellon resisted the pressure to entertain, and their patience paid off. Check out Tuya Vale collective: www.tuyavale.com.

Maia Veague. Photo by Jim Coleman.

Thoughts on making meaning through movement
Three other shows I was able to see had me contemplating how we use dance to tell stories. The Guild Dance Company’s Immigrant Stories (at Yaw May 3-4) told of director Alex Ung’s Tai Dam family, war refugees forced to relocate many times before arriving in Iowa. Immigrant Stories leaned heavily on pantomime to express a history that was also detailed in the program, alternating with traditional folk dance and lyrical-style dance numbers. While the story was moving and the dance was entertaining, I didn’t find that the choreography gave me more information or nuance than the written program description about this family’s experience.

I had a similar experience at a very different show a few days later. Jo Blake’s (dis)connect was stated to “explore the tensions between the individual and their community, and the role technology plays in both.” The choreography, however, seemed more focused on expression of angst set to a lengthy playlist of emotionally driving piano and string songs. The desperate gesturing and I-want-you-I-don’t-want-you partnering was dramatic, but again offered me no nuance or new information on the stated topic. There was a bit of a “social experiment” element where we were invited to live-stream the show with our phones. A few people wandered around filming, which did have a voyeuristic, Black Mirror-type vibe, but because it was unacknowledged in choreography, I imagine that effect was unintentional. I was not able to connect with (dis)connect., but I was clearly in the minority. The piece received a standing ovation, and you should definitely check out Richael Best’s fantastic review on why she loved this work.

Neve Mazique-Bianco. Photo by Ron Rogers.

Neve Mazique-Bianco’s work, Lover of Low Creatures, reassured me that dance can communicate in a way that is essential, rather than demonstrative. A cross disciplinary story-driven dance play (Musical numbers! Shadow puppets!) integrated a beautiful poetic world with physical presence. Mazique-Bianco is an artist who uses a wheelchair, playing a character who uses a wheelchair. As they lower themselves in and out of the chair, the ground, combining practical negotiation of weight and aesthetic gesture, I am given more information about being inside the experience of someone else. When Mazique-Bianco uses their knee to steer the chair in a circle, draping over the armrest and shaking their head, I am shown ingenuity and playfulness that gives me insight into their character. Check out the full review of Lover of Low Creatures here.