Written by Kristen Legg
Whim W’Him dancers in Cylindrical Shadows.
Photography by Kim & Adam Bamberg
(La Vie Photography)
Whim W’Him opened its second season with “Shadows, Raincoats, & Monsters” at their new home on January 14, 2011. As the resident dance company at the Intiman Theatre, Artistic Director Olivier Wevers presented three works as part of the Intiman’s Season 2011. Founded in 2009, Whim W’Him has already established itself as one of the premier companies in Seattle. Wevers, a Principal Dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet, has just seven years of choreography under his belt, yet is already being recognized for his talents. While some of the evening’s works were stronger than others, the performance displayed the company’s technical ability, as well as Wevers’ unique partnering manipulations and creative movement vocabulary.
The first work of the evening, This Is Not a Raincoat opens with the cast walking though the large stage space, musically unaccompanied. The muffled steps of the performers’ stocking-clad feet are mixed with the swishes of their raincoats. With sharp pivots and sudden twitches, the ensemble magically builds in tension until they find themselves pinned in separate stripes of light. Suddenly, the music comes in, and the dancers begin moving within their confined space with buoyant, swinging weight shifts—in what seems to be Whim W’Him’s signature movement style. This jarring shift in energy leaves something to be desired. The rhythmic movement and driving feel of this section is repetitive and often predictable. In one strong moment, Ty Alexander Cheng and Chalnessa Eames leave their slats and dance against the grain, which is a much-needed break in this section of the work. The dancers continue to move up and down the strips of light with a disconnect between body and mind until the lighting finally shifts allowing them to move about the space. The dancers worked in unison throughout the stage to the sound of a child practicing counting. With music by Jad Abumrad, the second section of this work explores the experimentation of self in childhood. It seems that the dancers are happy to be of released from their confines and rejoice in the freedom of youth and nievatee. Throughout the piece, the dancers repeatedly remove their raincoats, only to don them again. As seen in the title, program notes suggest that the raincoats are not raincoats, but protective barriers between one’s self and the world. As the piece comes to a close, the choreography continually returns to the duet between Cheng and Eames; however, dancers Lucien Postlewaite and Andrew Bartee stand out in this work for their sinewy movement and quintessential “Whim W’Him” style.
Postlewaite and Herrera in Monster.
Photography by Kim & Adam Bamberg
(La Vie Photography)
The second piece performed, Wevers’ Monster, was by far the strongest work of the night and offered diversity in movement, music, and energy. Separated into three duets, Monsteruses spoken word and movement to depict the kinds of monsters created in this world. Florescent lights—visible at the wings—created a wonderfully stark quality against the brightly colored shirts and socks worn by the dancers. The first section, seen earlier this season at Against the Grain/Men In Dance, speaks of the evils members of society create against homosexuality. In this tender yet pained duet, dancers Vincent Michael Lopez and Bartee partner effortlessly, using their socks to glide from one lift to the next. Section two begins powerfully as lights, music, and dancers are all cued together. In this section, Spectrum Dance Theater dancers Kylie Lewallen and Cheng use gestural phrases, sharp and vigorous movement, and continuous floorwork to depict the monster created by addiction. While less “dance-y” than the rest of the performance, this section was filled with beautiful shapes and images created by the two powerful dancers. The final section of Monsterwas by far the strongest performance of the evening. Melody Herrera is paired with Postlewaite in a tangled duet that fluctuates between tenderness and loathing. Not only was the connection between these two dancers stellar, but in this work Wevers has found the perfect balance between ballet and modern, ethereal and earth-bound. His unique partnering and diverse movement vocabulary allowed the simple moments of stillness to shine on these perfect bodies.
The final work of the evening was choreographed by guest artist, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa (billed incorrectly in the program as Annabelle Ochoa Lopez). The dancers in this work move in and out of one another’s negative space—filling voids and creating new shapes to be explored. In watching this work, it became clear the amount of classical training held by the Whim W’Him dancers. The women performed beautiful flowing movement and gravity-defying pointe work with ease, while the men demonstrated their strength and power through leaps and turns. However, the transitions between these classical movements and modern were, at times, less than seamless. While beautiful in simplicity and grace, this work seemed to be overshadowed by the power of Wevers’ Monster.
Overall, Whim W’Him’s Second Season opener demonstrated the technical prowess of Wevers’ company members and the developing choreographic style of a budding artist. “Shadows, Raincoats, & Monsters” can be seen at the Intiman Theatre Saturday, January 15 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, January 16 at 5 pm. Tickets are available through Brown Paper Ticket, or at the door (although Friday night was sold out when doors opened at 7 pm).