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A Chance to see Beyond the Threshold of America’s Borders

Written by Christin Call

Compagnie 7273 (Switzerland)
Photo Credit: Michel Cavalca
The Seattle International Dance Festival (SIDF) is an à l cartestyle sampling of any and all kinds of dance. A solid 10 days of performance and education, outdoor installation, and formal theater showings, it shine the spotlights on homegrown artists and artists from India, Germany, Africa, and Switzerland.  The Inter|national Series groups works together in a “not-the-U.S.” category, which creates the anticipation of gaining insight of the dance climate beyond Seattle’s borders.  The second program, which opened Saturday, June 2, 2012, was a forgivably uneven assemblage of companies with not much else in common.  Each, in its own way, however, offered snippets of the creative force motivated by and within very different cultural contexts and historical backgrounds. 

Originally planned as a split bill between Susanna Leinonen Company of Finlandand Compagnie 7273 of Switzerland, the evening had to be reworked when travel visas from Finland fell through.  Yurek Hansen, a long-time dancer with Idaho Dance Theatre, stepped in at the last minute to show a 3-day-old sketch of a collaboration with Manimou Camara, a traditional Guinean drummer and dancer teaching in Seattlealong with traditional African instrumentalists.  Seeming to take a cue from Alonzo King, whose projects often explore the result of combining traditional culture with contemporary dance, the structure of the piece was set up like a gamely dance-off between the two styles.  Set up each in their own spotlights, Hansen delivered a clean balletic line and fluidity of transition with an angular, driving personal vocabulary while Camara, with pure male veracity, commanded the stage with dynamic muscular power and intensity.  The two showed a sense of alpha pride and ownership in their individual differences while showing camaraderie in the performative moment together.  The two are slated to come back to next year’s festival in a more realized form, hopefully furthering the combination of two richly textured dance forms and synthesizing two solos into a complementing duet of two distinct voices.

Compagnie 7273 presented “Romance-s,” a longer work from 2009.  Laurence Yadi and Nicolas Cantillon, a couple in both their personal and artistic lives, presented a contemporary pas de deuxthat satiated visually with striking physicality and emotionally with a multi-textured experience and commentary on what it means to love and share life with another person.  Utilizing at first the almost caricature-like difference between the male dancer’s tall, scarecrow-like lankiness and the female dancer’s petite, sullen frame, they began slowly with specific, held images—such as the male dancer crouching his long, limber spine over in order to be on face level with his partner as they silently screamed at each other.  Later the man showed his impossible arm span by suspending the woman ankle-to-ankle in the splits.  Though the two dancers were obviously copiously endowed with technical ability, they were never virtuosic for its own sake.  Instead, they kept very close to exploring a cross-section of awkwardness, hurt, humor, anger, coy manipulation, self-abasement, decision-making, romantic bravura, quiet companionship, tenderness, and both emotional and sexual passion.  The result was a full, psychologically rich tableaux in which the dance itself was an element of their in-process relationship with real testing of weight-sharing limits (the woman promenading her partner in a steel-like plank), real observation and thoughtfulness (the man concisely placing his hand directly behind her foot when crawling in patterns on the floor), and ultimately, very real passion.  With no score but their increasing intensity of breath, the choreography made use of Flamenco-inspired movements, more classically modern and geometric shape structures, gestural body and facial language, as well as stunning contemporary movement.  At the end when the movement had stopped, the two waited in darkness as a familiarly Spanish guitar solo thrummed out its passionate ardor, expanding its over-the-top flourishes to include an acceptance of the powerful weirdness that is a loving couple.

The Inter|national Series will feature a different line-up of international artists next weekend, June 8-10, 2012, at Raisbeck Performance Hall.