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Seattle Performance Collective Surprises and Delights

Daniel Mullikin performs with SPC at the Broadway Farmers Market
Photo by Jason Merges

Written by Mariko Nagashima

Though music buskers are a common site at most farmer’s markets, dancers don’t regularly venture out into these public spaces to perform. This Sunday, however, market-goers at the Broadway Farmers Market were pleasantly surprised by the Seattle Performance Collective’s Summer Jam: a free, improvisational dance performance. Drawn in by the resonant musical stylings of cellist Daniel Mullikin, curious passers-by stood transfixed by the compelling dances that emerged from the lawn in front of Broadway Performance Hall.

The Jam featured several segments of choreography by SPC’s director Alicia Mullikin, but the remainder was improvisation by the six female performers. In variously striped articles of clothing, they gamboled, slinked, whirled, and arched between a grove of trees that created a natural stage-space. A lovely sense of play arose between Daniel Mullikin’s music (which ranged from an eerie tranquility to edgy and rhythmic) and the performers as it nudged the dancers toward sharper or more fluidly textured movements. In turn, their responses yielded new rhythms for him to build upon. Carla Maria Negrete Martinez executed her solo with clean lines and siren-stares, while Elise Landles moved with sinewy tension and unexpected explosions both into the air and onto the ground. Colleen McNeary and Maggie Hotchkiss had a bit more frenetic energy. In a pulsing duet filled with suspended lifts, Ali Maricich and Alyza DelPan-Monley shared a gorgeous moment where Maricich seemed to ooze off DelPan-Monley’s back like an oil spill. Though some of the movement felt rather typical of a contact improve-based performance, the dancers performed smoothly and with conviction. Mullikin’s choreography stood out for its eye-catching ensemble work and smooth transitions, demonstrating her clear eye for crafting movement.

Seattle Performance Collective
Photo by Jason Merges
While wonderful to see so many onlookers absorbed by the live music and movement, it seemed the performers could have engaged them more. With a largely internal focus and a tendency toward utilizing that outward-gaze-that-looks-right-past-people, a fourth wall felt apparent even though there was no proscenium. In the end, however, the outdoor setting began to lend a greater air of spontaneity and freedom to the performance as it transitioned into an open movement jam. The dancers finally seemed to drop the pretension of an actual performance and began to look more like people simply moving exactly how they wanted to move, spontaneously and in the moment. When they looked out, they seemed to finally see the blue sky above them and the people around them. Martinez even beckoned viewer and dancer Matt Drews into the clearing where the two shared a carefree twirl, and Mullikin joined at the very end, her long braids swinging as she spun her own luscious responses to the music.

Overall, the piece ended on a high note, and certainly provided an unexpected treat for the average market-goer. This was the perfect location for this great concept, and hopefully Seattle Performance Collective will continue to engineer these opportunities for spontaneous engagement with the arts.