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Whacked: A Spectacle of Theatricality and Hard Dancing

Written by Carla María Negrete Martínez

Alice” Choreographed by Xaviera Vandermay,  Left to Right 3SD Dancers: Alyssa Latham,
Ahnaleza Vandermay, April Torneby, Sharonda Young, Mia Monteabaro,
photo by Joseph Lambert

3rd Shift Dance presented Whacked!on May 20, 2012, at VelocityDanceCenter. The second performance of the evening was directed toward an adult audience. The talented young performers whacked their legs in unison in a speedy 60-minute jazz/contemporary performance where the public was invited to cheer and voice their amusement. The evening featured work by the enthusiastic Artistic Director Xaviera Vandermay, who was interviewed by SeattleDances last week and expressed her desire to bring an evening of ‘fast and hard’ dance to the audience. The night delivered just that, but it is uncertain whether this met the needs of her audience, or if it limited her reach. The program also featured “Battlefor the Dance Belt” champions Xclusive (choreographed and directed by Melissa Singleton and Delia Martinis), and an excerpt from DASS Dance (choreographed and directed by Daniel Wilkins). 3SD members April Torneby and Alyza DelPan-Monley also choreographed for the event.

Vandermay’s style is largely characterized by frenzied extensions (a particular skill of her dancers) and over-exaggerated facial expressions. This was especially notable in In Love with Heartbreak/2012 Edition. This three-section piece used satire to depict the excessive need of expression by angst-ridden teens portrayed through an abundance of over-exaggerated gestures and theatricality. Though entertaining, a more balanced blend of facial, kinetic, and gestural expressions would have created a more effective emotional depiction.

This balance was demonstrated by Torneby in Vandermay’s Pink Elefanting. In Elefanting, she performed the typical effects of a night out drinking with charming candor, making it difficult for the audience to keep from laughing. Her natural and sincere sense of entertainment is a quality that could be dug out from the rest of the company.

For Girl with the Hummingbird Tattoo, Vandermay used Founders Theater differently, making it a refreshing piece to see. It featured dancer and Associate Director of 3SD, Ahnaleza Vandermay, staring at her reflection in the mirror at the back of the stage until a moment of ‘self-realization’ when she rebounded and danced along the back wall until finally freeing into a solo.

Vandermay’s style, however, sometimes made it unclear whether her work was trying to explore other themes within a piece or just create movement, as in self-choreographed work 10 Years Old. Or as in Lost at Sea, where dancer Alyssa Latham interpreted a powerful girl fighting against any thing that crossed her path. However, she never seemed ‘lost,’ though perhaps this was Vandermay’s intention since not everyone deals with feeling lost in the same manner.

Battle for the Dance Belt” champions Xclusive presented Girls Night Out, with five elegantly dressed ladies in suits and purple bow ties—quite pleasing to watch. The simplicity of the choreography was a nice break from Vandermay’s more aggressive style. While the bare-bone lighting was an intentional choice for the show, this piece would have benefited from saucier lighting design to accentuate the sharp and fun style of the work.

Torneby and DelPan-Monley added some variety to the show with their own choreography. DelPan-Monley brought the night to a calmer state of mind with Returning Again, which had a different style altogether and allowed all the dancers to approach the movement with their own voice. This created an abundance of different stories and made for the most genuine choreography of the evening. New to the city, DelPan-Monley is well on her way to finding her place in the Seattle dance scene.

In Torneby’s Volcano, four dancers in black dresses used chairs to show off their long strong legs with sharp explosive accents before transitioning to passages of beautiful floor work.

Guest work Untitled, 1982 by Wilkins highlighted DASS Dance dancers Dade Glaser and Mia Monteabaro. During this visually engaging duet, the performers never broke contact. These young dancers executed risky partnering lifts and balances with near seamlessness. Monteabaro resembled a bird taking off with Glaser’s aid.

For the grand finale, Vandermay presented Whacking Walt, a creative and entertaining interpretation of three Disney favorites (Minnie Mouse, Pocahontas, and Alice in Wonderland) gone crazy.

While 3SD definitely gave the audience a satisfying ‘dance fix’ in an hour, there was still a need for pauses between pieces as it was simply too much information for the public to absorb in such a short time. Also, by prompting the audience to cheer for Latham’s clean pirouettes in Lost at Sea, for example, it seems that 3SD is more interested in spectacle than exploring the deeper meanings in each piece. At times Vandermay relied too heavily on music to differentiate her works; she has the creativity to go further in developing her own vocabulary within the contemporary jazz style of dance. The strong, talented dancers of 3SD carried the show and are definitely ones to watch in years to come.