KT Niehoff in A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light (Kevin Kauer promo photo) press release • link to reviews (7 now) • interview • review
Tix: $18, available on ACT’s website. By the way, ACT says this show is not recommended for children. Looks like!
REVIEW By Teresa Beery
Why do people go out? What kind of experience are they looking for? I’d had a discussion about this with KT Niehoff before the show. These are the questions that are floating through my mind as I wander into the gorgeous Bullitt Cabaret at ACT Theatre to experience this alternative evening that is Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light.
Turns out many people I know are in the cast, but I don’t recognize them with the vampish makeup, extravagant costumes, low lights, and whirl of activity that comprise the evening. The room is set with a raised stage where Ivory and Ice World reside on one side. Opposite, an ornate, wrought iron-stairway rises and then divides in two directions, carrying your eye to a dark upper level complete with balcony on three sides and a full bar. The band is already playing as I enter and the place has a night club feel with bar tables, chairs, and low cushy seats punctuated by four pillars and three distinct gridded stage spaces.
The dancing starts innocently with two show girls dancing on a high table. The light shifts, on the corner stage a chance encounter with two women pushing and pulling one another together and apart as if they are attracted, but unaware of their own feelings. Their desire surprises them as they come together, crotches connect, facing away as if they aren’t acknowledging the moment, their hands reach back to touch. The dance is improvisational, about contact, closer to acting, but constantly in motion until ending in the stillness of an embrace.
Another couple emerges center. We shift our gaze, but only for a moment, then all is dark.
Lights come up on the band singing eerie opera scales and powerful chanting lines of, “Kings and things to take us into the storm.”
A strong light shines down one stairway, catching a man holding the rail and struggling to rise up the incline. The audience is drawn to the action and creates their own dance as they swarm from one area to the next. Sometimes you find yourself in the front, with a showgirl guiding you to step back, other times the action is blocked from view and you must scurry around the obstacle so as not to miss something, and yet other times you are caught in the path of traffic as if on an airport runway with no radio tower connection. Eventually, I retreat to the balcony area upstairs to rest, get out of the storm, and step back for the bigger view. Even then a showgirl comes by and lays her hand on my hip then slips on by to another stranger, aah!
There are some enticing moments. A male duet with a rolling connection in center; the two are fearless, moving with abandon for safety, they roll and tumble and lift one another in amazing, off-kilter connections.
Promo Image: Ricki Mason, Aaron Swartzman, Bianca Cabrera (Kevin Kauer photo) The coven of four come center on hands and knees, dancing a pattern of hand directions placed firmly into the floor, while the showgirls flaunt and kick in a showgirl line at the side.
The energy ratchets up. Characters and themes emerge. Precious over-garments of white feathers and swirls are alternately worn, removed, and hung as shining effigies from the balconies.
The white queen recurrently stares, gropes, almost climbs into the mirror. What is she searching for?
The showgirls become zombies, traveling center, pulling one lagging hip as they go. They choke themselves with one hand, allow the dead arm to swing as they make a bent-over exit.
What is this place I have come to? Like a train roaring through night, it sweeps me along; I am obsessed with watching—sometimes awed, sometimes repelled—and I have no desire to get off.
The music of Ivory and Ice World carries the show, alternating powerful crooning, spoken word, and echoing whispers. KT Niehoff, the director of Glimmer, joins the band for many numbers, adding her clear voice to the smoky flavor of Ivory’s. Their music together is mesmerizing as it travels around and through the shifting action in the room.
The coven of four dancers—Bianca Cabrera, Ricki Mason, Michael Rioux, and Aaron Schwartzman—reveal their dance technique in fleeting moments of balance, stretch, and timing. This work is not easy; it looks deceptively like child’s play, but the connection between dancers, the balance of abandon and control, is a powerful display of strength and talent.
KT Niehoff (Kevin Kauer photo) The showgirls are an anchor of beauty to pull viewers from the darker moments. Their glittering rhinestone shoes, sly smiles, and exotic headpieces make them stand out in the darkness. They skillfully inhabit that character as they strut, dance, present, and slink through the night.
Tensions increase as dancers are undressed, held captive, pulled by the power of the ice queen.
The show ends abruptly, leaving me feeling lost, overwhelmed. Dumped out into the night only an hour and a half after the show began, I feel like I’ve gone to another world and returned. The experience stays with me, and I take it out to examine in the quiet moments of the next few days. Do all chance encounters need to be violent? Would the violence be more powerful juxtaposed against something gentle and soft? Is sex an overarching theme in real life, or only in the fantasy world of Glimmer? And if this is meant to be an interactive experience, could more space be made for me to enjoy myself, get a drink, talk to fellow audience members and the cast? Or would this down time break the momentum of the show, lose the power of the building energy? There are many possibilities here left to explore.
Why do people come out? To be taken out of the routine of life—to experience something different. KT Niehoff definitely serves us an evening to shake us out of our boots in Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light.
INTERVIEW WITH KT NIEHOFF, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF LINGO DANCE
By Teresa Beery
I was able to talk with KT Niehoff, the director of “A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light,” before the show on Saturday night, April 24, 2010. She shared her inspiration for the piece and where her artistic interests are taking her. —T.B.
Teresa: What was your inspiration for “A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light”?
KT Niehoff: The inspiration for “Glimmer” comes from previous works. That is how it usually rolls for me. It is more an unfulfilled inquiry that is a byproduct of the last piece I made called “Inhabit” in 2007. This was my first party performance in the old CHAC space which is the new Velocity dance space.
In that first attempt to step out of proscenium into interactive space, I worked to help audience members feel safe. I did many things like have the dancers sell tickets, take people’s coats, escort them into the space and give them drinks to help audience members feel comfortable and know what to do in the new setting. Now I wanted to move to something a little darker and more edgy. In that first piece, something didn’t get fulfilled or realized, this dance is the continuation of that exploration.
T: I noticed in the advertising that the costuming is quite Goth. Where does that come from?
KT: The costuming relates back to “Inhabit.” We were a quartet, so our cast was small and we felt vulnerable. We used ourselves and our own experiences, sharing who we are in very open way. A byproduct of that was feeling too exposed.
The next thing I created, [“Glimmer”], I wanted to be riskier. To be able to delve into that territory, I wanted the dancers to have some protection, so I armed them with costuming and makeup. At first the piece was all unclear, but then one thing led to the next. We built the over pieces and they informed the movement. I also knew that I wanted showgirls and that led to their exotic costuming.
T: Does the audience participate?
KT: No, nor did they participate in “Inhabit.” “Glimmer” is a show; you are there to watch it. The event happens around you. The audience is free to roam. There is a bar. The experience is a tiny bit like going to see a rock show or music show. In Act Theatre’s Bullitt Cabaret space, there are lots of places to watch from: the balcony, bar chairs, comfy seats, and the stairway. This interaction of audience and performers is something I am still exploring. Since 2007, I haven’t gone back to proscenium.
T: Does work of Merce Cunningham or other historic dancers in terms of the breaking through the fourth wall affect your work?
KT: Other dancers’ work in that realm is not where I get my inspiration. I am aware of history—the breaking down of barriers—that work that has gone on in the past. I find space and proximity very interesting territory. Seeing something up close is very different from [seeing it from] far away. I feel more inspiration in relation to culture and time.
My work in this area doesn’t feel alone. Many people are presenting art in different ways. Their work is informing others’ [work] in a cycle of change and creation.
I am fascinated by the concept of why people gather at all. Currently, we have so much access. It is so much less relevant to gather and watch something happen in front of you. This type of experience has become less inspiring for me. If I ask people to gather, I want to create a more visceral connection—the kind you get from being in a crowd, a restaurant, or with a group of friends.
T: Do you think this new setting will keep some people away?
KT: Some people may be worried about what will happen to them in an unknown theater setting. If that is the case, those people will just stay away.
To help the audience understand the space, we have used light to direct the eye. We’ve built clear dance floors that delineate performance space. There is a secondary cast of seven show girls. They are the caretakers who interact with the audience and help to move people around.
The band “Ivory and Ice World” is featured at the front of the room and is playing the entire evening.
At one point I said to my husband, “I think I’m making a musical—will you forgive me if I am making a musical?”
T: Does this piece have a story line?
KT: “Glimmer” is still abstract. There are some through lines. Main characters emerge. One of the main characters I refer to as “my Liza.” She is the conduit—like a church story—you can feel the message through her lens.
T: What can you tell me about the cast?
KT: I view the cast in a series of concentric circles.
There are four core performers. These are people I have worked with extensively in my company, Lingo, for the past seven years.
Then I had my first-ever audition for the seven showgirls. Thirty people showed up, all Seattle contemporary dancers, and I chose from that group.
The band “Ivory and Ice World” is the last circle of 4 performers, with some guest performances by me. I have been an Ivory fan and I wanted to work with her. I convinced her to do this piece with me. Many fantasies are being fulfilled in the show and me as a rock band singer is up there at the top of the list. Singing in a rock band is so amazing. Everyone should get a chance before they die!
T: Are you performing as a dancer in the show?
KT: I am not dancing in this show. “Glimmer” is epic, and I needed an outside eye to manage the complexities. As I get older, the performance piece is less important, though performing through music is really amazing.
I want to clarify that this is not a show for kids. Sex, drugs, rock and roll, and violence are all present. Everything is a fantasy. The showgirls are fantasies with rhinestone shoes and outrageous costumes. Being able to strut around in that mode– having permission to strut around—this is hard to grant yourself; to have an artistic opportunity to tap into that has been a gift for all the performers.
T: I thought Act Theatre was about putting on plays. How have you been able to bring a dance piece to this space?
KT: Act Theatre has been transforming themselves. They are going to bat for the Seattle Arts Community. I have been working with the Central Heating Lab for the past year, and they commissioned “Glimmer.” Carlo Scandiuzzi, the head of the Heating Lab, has been a big help and support for the project. He gave the cast and me a month in the space to rehearse.
What Act Theatre is doing is really amazing. Act Theatre is responding to the needs of the city and the artists and people who live here. They are changing their income stream from ticket sales to memberships. They are expanding their mission to include dance, music, poetry slams, and theater. With this expansion, they are in question about why people go out, what they do when they do go out, and what makes them go.
T: It sounds like this experience has been a great opportunity to explore dance and the audience/ performer relationship in a very supportive environment. Thank you for taking time to share your story of the inspiration for “Glimmer.” I look forward to seeing the show tonight.
Staircase image above is from “Glimmer” promotional materials; not a performance shot. Clockwise from top: KT Niehoff, Bianca Cabrera (center), Kelly Sullivan, and Ricki Mason in A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light at ACT Theatre, April 22 – May 15, 2010. Photo by Kevin Kauer.
Audiences also have opportunity for intimate pre-show gathering with cast
A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light
April 22-May 15
Start at $18
Included with Basic Monthly Membership
Thurs-Sat 8:00 p.m. (no show May 1)
Pre-show Cocktails at nearby bar with Glimmer Cast
April 22-May 15, Thurs-Sat 6:45 p.m. (pre-show)
FREE with paid ticket to performance
*It’s a Dutch date – patrons pay for their drinks; Lingo for theirs. Reserve with ticket purchase, phone only (206) 292-7676
Ticket Office: (206) 292-7676
700 Union Street, Seattle WA 98101
Seattle, WA – April 13, 2010 – Serving as the final, culminating event of a three-month performance series launched late February, Lingo dance premieres A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light, a dance/theater/cabaret/glam rock musical commissioned and produced by The Central Heating Lab at ACT. Glimmer will be performed April 22-May 15, Thursday-Saturday at 8:00 p.m. in ACT Theatre’s Bullitt Cabaret.
Glimmer is the final performance influenced by its preceding series of one-on-one custom solos performed in public places throughout Seattle (since March) and the company’s five-hour live installations at The Seattle Art Museum (since late February). It is the latest in a series of non-proscenium performance/events created by KT Niehoff, Artistic Director of Lingo. The show takes place throughout the Bullitt Cabaret space, and audience members are free to watch the show from various and alternating vantage points, including the dreamy balcony that runs the perimeter.
Glimmer’s environment is raucous and wild. (Jabon) Scott Colburn, creator of the original score, calls the show “the most romantic vampire story every told”, while others liken it to a glam-rock musical. Along with her core company members, Niehoff has expanded her posse of vibrant performers to include seven contemporary dancers turned “showgirls” and Ivory Smith’s local indie band, Ivory in Ice World, (Niehoff guests, singing with Smith on a few songs). Both Niehoff and Smith have borrowed inspiration from Pippin, Cabaret, and Moulin Rouge to create Glimmer’s look and sound.
As an additional part of the Glimmer experience, Lingo is offering an opportunity for 12 ticket holders each show to join members of the core cast for pre-show cocktails at a nearby bar. Here’s how it works: patrons call ACT once they purchased tickets to Glimmer, and tell the ticket representative that they (and their party, if desired) would like to sign up for a pre-show cocktail (1st come, 1st served). Lingo will contact those who reserved a spot directly as to where to meet. It’s a Dutch date—patrons pay for their drink, Lingo pays for theirs. From there, patron and performer will take a Seattle spring stroll over to ACT’s Bullitt Cabaret together. Pre-show drinks start at 6:45 p.m.
Lingo performers are core company members Bianca Cabrera, Ricki Mason, Michael Rioux, Kelly
Sullivan, and Aaron Swartzman, along with Sruti Desai, Jill Leversee, Morgan Nutt, Erin Simmons, Violette Tucker, Kate Wallich, and Hendri Walou.
Comprehensive information about A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light can be found at
About KT Niehoff / Lingo
Named 2007 Dance Artist of the Year by Seattle Magazine, KT Niehoff is a 2001 Seattle Artist Trust Fellow and a 2006 MANCC Choreographic Fellow at Florida State University. She was the co-founder of Velocity Dance Center from 1996-2006 and holds a BFA from New York University.
Lingo is the container for her creative works in all forms – performance, commissions, writing, film,
teaching, and research. The company expands and contracts in numbers depending on the demands of the work, yet is centered around a reoccurring cast of characters who have been instrumental in the creation of Lingo’s vision.
Since 2006 Niehoff’s curiosities have led her off the proscenium stage. Recent projects include her one-on-one urban “dance gift” called The Lift at Seattle’s historic Pike Street Market, her party/performance called Inhabit, a social art feast, at the old CHAC space, and her first short film titled Parts Don’t Work shot on location at the Fun Forest in the Seattle Center.
Lingo has been presented in Canada, Japan, Ecuador, Germany, and Cuba and nationally at venues
including On the Boards (Seattle), The Joyce SoHo (New York), SUSHI (San Diego), and Alverno Presents (Milwaukee), among colleges and theaters throughout the country. The company’s artistic integrity has been recognized by The National Endowment for the Arts, The National Dance Project, The National Performance Network, Meet the Composer, Centrum, Artist Trust, Seattle, Washington, and King County Arts Commissions, Arts International, The Bossak/Heilbron Foundation, and The Jack Straw Foundation.
Located in the heart of downtown Seattle and serving a population of curious, open-minded, and brave audiences, ACT – A Contemporary Theatre is the only local theatre dedicated to producing contemporary work with promising playwrights and local performing artists since 1965. A theatre of new ideas, ACT serves as a cultural engine that makes plays, dance, music, and film that touch us. Because contemporary life demands examination, ACT is driven to inspire and strengthen our diverse community through works that advance our understanding of human life. ACT is an interactive community where artists and the public witness, contemplate, and engage in dialogue on today’s thought-provoking issues, ideas and art, presented with intelligence, insight, and humor.
Support for A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light is provided by 4 Culture, Bossak/Heilbron