“Creativity Perseveres,” reads the webpage for Continuum: Bridging The Distance, a new online performance series. In the wake of their canceled season due to COVID-19, Seattle Dance Collective, formed just last year by PNB dancers Noelani Pantastico and James Yoichi Moore, decided to reimagine their continuing vision for the company. Five new works will premiere over each week in July, danced by SDC members, choreographed by mostly local artists, and filmed by Henry Wurtz. Along with the new works, various classes will run alongside the program.
During lockdown, many people have no doubt found comfort and grounding in their close relationships, something the first two works of Continuum explore. Dreamy, evening clouds paint a backdrop in The Only Thing You See Now by SeaPertls, a production company run by PNB dancer Miles Pertl and his visual artist sister, Sydney. Two dancers, Pertle and Leah Terada, first move through heartfelt, though somewhat melancholic, gestures in separate frames. Swaying inside their internal space, they seemingly long for the other with delicate caressing and reaching into the distance. Standing on a dock on the waterfront, the Seattle skyline glistening in the background, they finally join for an intimate duet. Filled with lifts and suspensions, they fearlessly move in tandem with the rocking dock, getting more reckless and joyful as they fall across their narrow stage. An accordion player seated on the dock guides the rise and fall of energy. It’s as if the wind carries them, but a trusting force between the two grounds their movement. Raw and romantic, The Only Thing marries the ideas of stability and flexibility when moving together.
Home, by Penny Saunders, seems to take a more domestic and casual look at a relationship. A dog dashes across a welcome mat reading “HOME,” and from then on we are transported to a field where real life couple Elle Macy and Dylan Wald explore space and each other through a breezy, sometimes balletic exchange. Their voices overlay the piece, discussing what they’ve been doing in quarantine and how they feel. They joke with each other, as if we’re sitting down at the breakfast table with them. They talk about what they miss (“dancing, friends” – relatable for any dancer during this time), how they couldn’t spend this much time with anyone else, and other visions into their daily lives.
As they dance, the wide open field seems to narrow, so the focus is solely on their energy with each other. Though there are cuts, the choreography and their lengthy limbs make it feel like one ongoing shot, as they celebrate their emotional connection. In a time when space between bodies is paramount, their ease and comfort in touch brings the viewer closer to the love of whatever “home” is. However, distance from others does take its toll, which Bruno Roque will explore later this month in The Space Between Us. Set to premiere July 30th, The Space Between Us mourns the nuances of interaction we miss out on in our new virtually connected world. Filmed on a vacant rooftop bar, a notorious setting for ample socializing, The Space Between Us could hold many emotions at once in this tender and relatable struggle.
Beth Terwilleger also sets her work in more concrete landscapes. Dancers Stephan Bourgond and Lucien Postlewaite perform her new piece A Headlamp or Two, premiering this Thursday, July 16th. One dancer in a skate bowl and one on gravel, their overlapping images will reflect on the idea of humor as a coping mechanism. While she thinks humor is a valuable tool in dealing with hard times, Terwilleger seeks to dial it down this time around. “This work is about using humor to cope, but not to cover. The lighter moments are very subtle, when I usually tend to use humor a lot larger. I played with that subtlety along with the pain,” she says.
“During these tough times, it was really nice to have the comfort of working with someone I’ve known for so long.” Terwilleger and Postlewaite both grew up and danced together in Santa Cruz, where skateboarding and surfing are a large part of the scene. “That tie was inspiring,” she says. She brings those elements into the film, with the skate bowl as the site, and both dancers wearing surfing gloves and socks.
A close connection between collaborators seemed to be important to choreographer Amanda Morgan as well for her new work Musings, set to premiere on July 23rd. In Musings, Morgan and Nia-Amina Minor (one of our 2017 DanceCrushes!) address “spatial injustice, navigating space as Black femmes, and adapting and responding to the times through movement.” The pertinence of these particular topics right now is undebatable. As a PNB dancer, Morgan is used to working with mostly white dancers (a problem in itself), so working with another Black woman has been “one of the most special, creative experiences of my career thus far,” she said. She spoke of the linear fashion in which ballet dances are made, and thinks the pandemic has provided a rich opportunity for artists to be reflective and find new ways to conduct a creative process.
“My hope for this work is that it will leave people thinking about what it means to move and be present in spaces, and how that changes for Black and Brown individuals. More so than ever, we have been forced during this pandemic to look at the harsh realities and effects that a system can have on Black and Brown communities.” Musings will incorporate interviews with seven different Black women from the Seattle area, and hearing these voices is highly anticipated and not to be missed. As artists continue to adapt and respond to the times we’re living in, virtual expressions such as SDC’s Continuum provide an essential injection of hope into our dance scene and world.
Seattle Dance Collective’s Continuum: Bridging The Distance runs from July 2-July 30th, 2020. Find out more about it here. The films can be seen here. Information about the accompanying classes/workshops can be found here.