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Diverse Talents Shine in Tuesday’s Spotlight on Seattle

Written by Mariko Nagashima
Andrew Bartee and Lucien Postlewaite in Wevers’ Flower Festival
Photo by Bamberg Fine Art
As part of the Seattle International Dance Festival, Spotlight on Seattleis meant to highlight local talent. A three-evening event with each evening curated by a local dance luminary, the showcase draws from the talented pool of dancers and dance-makers in the Seattlearea. The program on Tuesday, June 5, 2012, was curated by Olivier Wevers and presented an eclectic snapshot of the current Seattle scene. With a slight bent toward the contemporary ballet aesthetic (Wevers is, after all, Artistic Director of Whim W’Him) there were works by Spectrum Dance Theater, Stone Dance Collective, Andrew Bartee (a dancer with Wevers’ company and Pacific Northwest Ballet), and Whim W’Him, but there was also broad representation of the local modern scene with performances by Khambatta Dance, NorthWest Dance Syndrome, PERPETUUM│Mobile, and Matt Drews.

Though an exceptionally lengthy program, each piece brought a new statement to the stage. Themes did emerge, however, namely those of male competition, inner turmoil, and twisted depictions of love. Khambatta Dance and Whim W’Him brought the concept of rivalry between business men alive in two unique ways. With Khambatta’s Modern Barbarism, dancers Chris McCallister and Eric Aguilar utilized text, pantomime, and effective faux-fighting to show just how primitive and absurd today’s business world can be. Their dry delivery of the text provided the piece’s strongest impact. Wevers’ Flower Festival offered a slightly more nuanced approach, in a colorful power play between dancers Bartee and Lucien Postlewaite. The two squared-off and attempted to one-up each other with ever-sillier antics. Even more successful in Raisbeck Hall’s intimate theater than the Intiman’s proscenium stage where it was performed this fall, the subtle facial expressions and the intricate movements that gave the piece its verve were more readily visible, making it all-the-more delightful.  

The more introspective pieces of the evening included Bartee’s #helpimalive, a trio for PNB dancers Ezra Thompson, Sarah Pasch, and Bartee himself. In the same idiom of slinky contemporary ballet as Wever’s choreography, Bartee’s work was a non-stop kinetic joyride. About the “moment when you feel your years, and it terrifies you,” the young choreographer captured a sense of urgency in the movement, as if the dancers are fully aware of the fleetingness of their careers. The only stillness in the piece was when Pasch placed her chin on Thompson’s fist in a two person version of Rodin’s “The Thinker,” the two dancers stood frozen, face-to-face, pondering each other’s predicament.

Equally reflective but more placid in tone, was Matt Drews’ self choreographed solo, transitory object: cleaning the house. Drews partnered a full size door, letting it teeter on edge before snatching it from falling away and catching its weight in various ways. Though it sometimes proved an unwieldy prop, the piece as a whole sustained an air of questing on an almost spiritual journey. In a powerful final image, Drews seemed to close the door on himself, and all of the possibilities he had just dabbled in throughout the piece, by lowering the door to the floor as he flattened to the ground underneath its frame.

Giving the introspection theme a sinister touch was Creature/Pull v4 by PERPETUUM│Mobile. Choreographers and dancers Rosa Vissers and Jessica Hatlo each seemed to move against their own will, Vissers thrashing vigorously against a towering wall at the back of the stage and Hatlo in a somnambulistic path across the front. In a defining moment Hatlo removed the cufflinks on her wrists and collar around her neck while Vissers donned a set of her own, perhaps in an oblique reference to defying societal conventions. This idea of being trapped was reinforced when Hatlo reappeared coiled in a heavy rope, confining her every movement.

Pinata, performed by The Stone Dance Collective and choreographed by director Eva Stone, was bit of an enigma. Opening with a blindfolded girl spitting gumballs into a clear bowl, the piece progressed with an ensemble of six women, never seeming to reference this interesting but perplexing image. With a pulsing, rhythmic energy, the piece created a slight sense of anxiety. Each woman projected their own brand of intensity through the unfurling and often times insect-like movements.

NW Dance Syndrome in The Snapping Point
Photo by Gabrielle Shutz
On the subject of love was NW Dance Syndrome’s The Snapping Point, first presented at BOOST dance festival in March of 2012, and Spectrum Dance Theater’s LOVE, an excerpt of a larger work to be performed later this month. The Snapping Point depicted a twisted type of familial love in a grotesque family portraiture complete with a murderous set of twins. The piece relied heavily on creepy spectacle and intense acting by the troupe of six to create its sinister world. Donald Byrd’s LOVE, was a collection of largely bleak ruminations on the subject. The piece depicted everything from rejection, yearning, vulnerability, and passion through a series of duets and solos. Intriguing at first, this excerpt was simply too long for appearing at the end of the program; the highly technical and acrobatic dancing seemed to lose its initially powerful impact as the piece continued.

The Spotlight on Seattleseries continues tonight and tomorrow (June 6–7, 2012) at Raisbeck Hall. Wednesday’s performance is a tribute to local choreographer Mary Sheldon Scott and is curated by VelocityDanceCenter’s Executive Director. Thursday’s performance features another solid dose of Seattle’s modern scene, this time curated by Dan Mayer, Executive Director of the KirklandPerformanceCenter. Tickets for both showcases are available at: