Written by Kaitlin McCarthy
|Markeith Wiley and Sean Tomerlin of The New Animals|
Photo by Joseph Lambert
The New Animals, directed by Markeith Wiley, presented five repertory works in the aptly named RepSho! March 1 and 2, at Velocity Dance Center. With all choreography created by Wiley along with his small group of dancers, the group has a fluency and clarity in their cohesive ensemble that stands out from much of the project-based work happening in Seattle. The first half was a bit of a retrospective, with pieces dating back to Wiley’s college days at Cornish. The second half contained The New Animals’ current work in progress: TRE, which Wiley is presenting in installments over the course of the year, with a culmination scheduled for fall 2013.
The opener of the evening, Bill Withers Project (2008), is set to the soulful stylings of, you guessed it, Bill Withers. This jazzy ballet-influenced piece follows a loose narrative where Sean Tomerlin plays womanizer, interacting with each of the five other dancers in colorful dresses, and becoming increasingly entangled. The movement is infused with detail and rhythm that is particularly captivating on the articulate Jamie Karlovich. The use of cannons, along with a nice sense of space design, makes for textbook modern dance.
Next, was a solo performed by Baylee Drew Reynolds. Set to an intense and distorted track by Autechre, Further (2013) was a big shift in mood, but Wiley stays faithful to his rhythmic interaction with the music. Hard-hitting and sharp details release into ease and then back again. Reynolds is dead on in her precision, but her stage presence is inaccessible and distant. The movement accumulates and repeats—there are moments where it begins to build, but the energy always seems to drop off too soon for anything to develop.
In the duet, littleBold (2009), performers Wiley and Anna Conner were well matched in energy, intention, and skill. The two also have a chemistry that makes for an engaging duet. Vocabulary infused with evocative details helps develop the relationship between them, while the pair’s ease in and out of the floor demonstrates a keen physicality. Interesting partnering work takes full advantage of the noticeable height difference between the two, keeping this duet fresh and unpredictable.
The last work in the second half, Ill Not Sick (2009), was clearly the most hip hop influenced piece of the evening. An ensemble work, here, Wiley fuses ballet, modern, and hip hop with his tongue in his cheek, all while comedically riffing off Lil’ Wayne’s lyrics. The piece is pure fun, with the kind of timing, physicality, and performance that makes for high entertainment, thanks in no small part to his crew of dancers. Molly Sides in particular is almost impossible to stop watching because her face and body are at once hilarious and totally legit.
|Calie Swedberg, Jamie Karlovich, and Molly Sides of The New Animals|
Photo by Joseph Lambert
After a brief intermission, a group of five returned to perform TRE (so close, so far), the third installment of the piece presented so far. Five red Solo cups sit in formation on the stage as Calie Swedberg pours a shot of whisky in each. The dancers enter solemnly, file in to each stand behind a cup, take the shot, and thus the dance begins. A complex duet between Swedberg and Karlovich shows a shared struggle, while Tomerlin accompanies them with crude music produced with the Solo cup and the floor. He is soon joined by Wiley and Sides to create a soundscore that lends a much-needed intimacy to the evening. Already, TRE stands out from the other pieces; it feels a little less in control and a little more raw. The rhythms escalate until Tomerlin crushes his cup and takes to the floor in a desperate solo. Opposing moments of balance with falling and crashing, Tomerlin seems to face-off with inner demons. Soon, all five are crashing to the floor, rising up again, and crashing once more. Flurries of action build successfully to a climax, and then suddenly it’s lights out. TRE was the first piece of the evening to take the audience on an emotional journey—one of pain, anger, and loss of control. It felt unfinished to have the arc drop off so quickly with no resolution, although perhaps that is for the next installment of the piece. With more time to develop, TRE promises to be a must-see work.
TRE (where were you) will be performed at NW New Works festival, June 15 and 16, 2013, at On the Boards. TRE (the whole damned thing) will be performed in the fall of 2013. Dates and location to be announced.