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Preview: The Cabiri’s Winternacht

Written by Nalisha Rangel

McCreary and Morgan Houghton of the Cabiri.
Photo by John Cornicello

At a sneak preview of The Cabiri’s latest project: The Ghost Game: Winternacht, the audience was treated to the raw power and strength of this talented troupe. John Murphy, Cabiri choreographer, summarized the inspiration for each piece as “mythical stories from each continent.” The venue, the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts, is also where troupe members teach aerial classes to the public. Catherine Cabeen, a choreographer and dancer herself, hosted the event and encouraged the audience to ask questions and comment about each piece. This interactive preview gave the audience the chance to offer interpretations of the movements (without knowing the actual stories that are to be kept secret until the show is unveiled next month). The show itself will run October 21–31 at the Youngstown Cultural Center in West Seattle.

Murphy and Charley McCreary  opened with a black, silk fabric duet. A breath-taking introduction to the choreographic intricacies of aerial, each dancer was suspended in the air by personal physical power. As if that wasn’t enough to impress, they began to somersault, twist, tuck, cartwheel, and cocoon themselves in- and outside of the fabric. The silk, all the while, was a lifeline for each dancer, wrapping their limbs in a 20-foot, gravity-defying pas de deux.

A floor duet by Courtney Dressner and Erica Sherman  demonstrated the flexibility and contorted artistry of the troupe. With what seemed to be an evil spirit, played by Sherman, casting a spell on Dressner, a nightmare took shape. Both intertwined their limbs in exquisite balances, twisted splits, and torsos folded forward and backward in unnatural shapes. The dark, meditative music complimented this floor work—Dressner’s backward pikes; back erected in the air with hips almost lifted off the ground while her legs faced down on the floor were especially jaw-dropping. Ending with a slow-motion tumbling combination, the suspended power of their movements exemplified the technically challenging choreography.

In the following duet, Danny Boulet, a taunting spirit, held Lauren Kettner captive in an obsessive grasp, pulling her back as she attempted an escape. They locked limbs for a series of tight turns and lifts, all while demonstrating sharp port de bras and artistry. One particularly arresting trick was Boulet’s ability to hold his body parallel to the floor, hovering over Kettner with just his hands. This feat alone would make seeing the upcoming full performance worthwhile.

The performance concluded with a red fabric duet by Sherman and Kirra Steinbrueck and a hoop quartet featuring Kettner, Murphy,  McCreary and Susan Bienczycka.The hoop-scoop (where Murphey swung by and lifted Kettner from the mat, locking their arms together to swoop over the first row of viewers) was a new move which they tried that night for the first time – a bit of information they shared with the audience after attempting—and succeeding in—the trick.

Sharing insider moments like these made the sneak preview of Winternacht a unique pleasure. The un-costumed, stripped-down performance allowed the fundamental physicality that is aerial dance to take center stage. Murphy emphasized that this was only a taste of the full performance and, in time with Halloween season, it will include lights, make-up, and costumes to garnish the troupe’s talent. Hurry and get your ticket for a mystical night out!

For more information and to purchase tickets, please see: