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2012 BOOST dance festival: Week 1 Highlights

Written by Steve Ha

Guest Artists Elizabeth Chitty and Suzanne Myre’s Nowhere Space.
Photo by Joseph Lambert.
If the 2012 BOOST Dance Festival serves as any indication, it’s been a long winter in Seattle. The first weekend of performances saw themes wrought with tension and angst, popular with contemporary artists to the point of mind-numbing overload. While each work had its strengths in glorious dance and fascinating ideas, the program as a whole is so heavy that it raises questions as to whether modern dance has been boxed into certain standards, settling for themes and movements that don’t register as new anymore.
It’s not as though the program is without variety—Iyun Ashani Harrison’s jewel toned Union (2010) incorporated influences from Martha Graham, trading earthier aesthetics for swirling oily satins. The movement of the costumes harmonized with the choreography on the dancers, producing vibrant pictures while depicting shades of human experiences. Strong in both concept and execution, Union served as a brilliant opening for the show. 

Following that came NorthWest Dance Syndrome’s twisted family portrait The Snapping Point, complete with a matriarch that resembled a psychotic marionette, tied with stretchy red bands as if bound by her own entrails. While The Snapping Point included startling images and a number of horror film references, the effect leaned toward caricature rather than the grotesque.
In may I… (my life as it is now), choreographer Kristen Legg of Redd Legg Dance reflected on relationships between mother and child, creating by far her most inspired work to date. Balletic and precise, the phrasing of the work is seamless, the coloring appropriate. Though not present at last year’s festival, the improvement in finesse over the past couple of years is undeniable in Legg’s latest venture, a true winner in receiving the eponymous “boost.” 

Closing out the first half were guest artists Elizabeth Chitty and Suzanne Myre, in an excerpt of a work entitled Nowhere Space. Aptly named, Chitty and Myre engaged in a thoughtful dialogue in lighted fields of play, but the conversation literally seemed to go nowhere, and though this was an excerpt that perhaps needed a greater context in which to frame it, the majority of what was shown was largely forgettable.
Karena Birk in Cabeen’s Gravitas.
Photo by Joseph Lambert
The second half of the evening line up featured two marvelous dances, starting with an engaging work by Kate Wallich, one of the breakout choreographers from last year’s festival. Verbosely titled Sound over taking your ears, volume taking over your body, Wallich provided relief from obscurity; like a celestial ascension into light and shadow, Sound captured countless moments of beauty with strong pictures of the body. Wallich continues to prove her understanding of shaping the human body and ensuring that no movement is wasted or without purpose. The success of Sound lay in the trance it induces, whereupon all sense of time is lost and the audience is left wanting more. 

Next was Catherine Cabeen’s Gravitas, a solo work putting on full display the magnificence of the human ability to jump. Rich with smokiness, the soundtrack, composed by trumpeter Chad McCullough, inspired perilous choreography that burst from the floor like breaths from the underworld, each leap hovering like plumes of volcanic ash. Though Cimmerian in color, the work also has an incredible lightness, performed effortlessly by Karena Birk, a testament to Cabeen’s uncanny eye for striking visuals.
badmarmar dance company in tenSides.
Photo by Joseph Lambert
BOOST producer Marlo Martin closed out the show with an excerpt of her piece, tenSides, a sleek and finely polished ebon filigree. With weighted rolls thrown into the floor, Martin’s dancers easily commanded attention with power and sharpness. Though laden with yet even more angst, tenSides is brilliantly conceived and even the excerpt could stand alone as a significant work, holding to a high standard Martin has clearly set for herself.
With Martin at the helm, BOOST has once again solidified its value as a vehicle for Seattle-based dance artists, in perhaps one of the greatest opportunities for young choreographers to shine. The ticket sales speak for themselves; a sold-out opening night indicates the strength of interest in budding artists. As performances continue through the weekend, audiences can also look forward to the second week of the festival, which will showcase a different set of works and reprise UnionSound, and tenSides. However, the challenge has been issued—with so many choreographers following trends in modern dance, there must inevitably be one that breaks away from the pack.

Tickets may still bea available at the door for Saturday, March 17, 2012.  Tickets for next weekend’s performances can be purchased at Brown Paper Tickets.