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KSD Creates a Nexus of Science and Dance

Written by Mariko Nagashima

Karin Stevens Dance’s Point of Departure.
Photo by Tim Summers
A fruitful collaboration between modern dance and multi-media art, Point of Departure by Karin Stevens Dance opened this Friday, May 11, 2012, at Velocity Dance Center. Extremely broad in scope, this joint effort between Stevens and artist Craig van den Bosch delved into the similarities between the Muqarnes Dome architecture and the cross section of the Large Hadron Collider, dabbling in particle physics, evolution, the human condition, and the golden ratio (just to name a few), in the process. Though a great amount of intellectual thought was evident in this exploration, oftentimes the movement didn’t clearly articulate these concepts, leaving the audience intrigued albeit slightly perplexed.

Divided into four sections, the 45-minute piece was lent continuity by van den Bosch’s film, projected on the white curtain at the rear of the stage. A kaleidoscope of ever-changing shapes and images, the film seemed a bit like a screensaver gone haywire. Light from the projection was a lovely addition to Amiya Brown’s already nuanced lighting, the video’s constant shifts in color glowed softly on the dancers, adding texture to their simple black and white costumes.

The piece opened with a dancer wearing a craggy grey headpiece of squares (also created by van den Bosch) arranged at different angles, turning her into a multifaceted organism. Lying on the floor, she revolved slowly, a fractured amoeba emerging in the space. The contrast between the angular headpiece and the dancer’s fluidly moving legs was a perfect manifestation of something human emerging from chaos and disorder. Other intriguing props were the star-like armbands worn by six dancers during the first section. Stevens used these to great effect, creating symmetrical shapes which seemed to reference both man-made architecture and crystalline patterns found throughout nature.

Karin Stevens Dance’s Point of Departure.
Photo by Tim Summers
The seven dancers executed Stevens’ choreography with great purpose and clarity. At one point they moved with precision, through angular, almost metronomic poses. At another, everything became curved and spiraling, the dancers coalesced before veering off in their own directions, elementary particles ricocheting through space. Patterns built upon each other, and complex geometric shapes emerged, but the actual movement vocabulary felt rather generic, a repetition of classic modern steps that quickly became predictable. The dancers maintained a mildly detached expression throughout, allowing the audience to reflect on each shape created with their bodies. Unfortunately for the audience members, without prior knowledge of the subject matter, what these shapes were referencing was oftentimes unclear. They may have been a highly accurate representation of the string theory, or cosmological religious geometry, or a cross section of the Large Hadron Collider, but since these concepts are not well-known by most viewers, their translation to the audience was ineffectual. The rendition would have benefited from more inventive movement motifs to clearly depict the concepts, or additional information in the program notes to provide a working knowledge of the subject. The video projection could have also been more effective in this direction if it had been more explicit in its images, indicating each successive idea in real time with the choreography, but the heavily layered images gave only a vague idea of the relationships between these concepts.

The piece reached a satisfying conclusion by moving away from the scientific and into the existential. After an entropic whirlwind of individual movement, the dancers found stillness facing the audience, their arms bent at the elbows but reaching forward. Both questioning and offering, they embodied a sense of yearning; this simple gesture outlined the disconnect between man’s extensive intellectual knowledge and ceaseless human suffering. A fitting resolution, it lent the performance a distinctly human and more readily identifiable note.

It is highly encouraging to see artists making such profoundly intellectual work, as Stevens and van den Bosch have done. With much modern dance focused on the internal emotional landscape, the exploration of these externalized scientific ideas makes her a unique voice in the Seattle dance scene. Point of Departure can be seen again Saturday, May 12, 2012, at Velocity Dance Center. For tickets visit