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Lithe Bodies Dance at SIDF’s Spotlight on Seattle

Allie Hankins’  Like a Sun, Excerpt 2
Photo by Allie Hankins

This month, 2013’s Seattle International Dance Festival presents ten days of work from more than thirty companies and artists hailing from places near (Portland, Vancouver, B.C.) and far (West Africa, Israel). The Spotlight on Seattle series at Cornish’s Raisbeck Hall anchors the middle of the festival. This series focuses on artists based in Seattle, with each performance curated by a different figure from the local dance world. The Wednesday, June 19 show, curated by Tere Mathern, director of Portland’s Conduit Dance Center, featured works by Allie Hankins, Lotus Body/Tara Dyberg, Danielle Ross and Takahiro Yamamoto, UMAMI Performance, and Kate Wallich/The YC. In this mixed-bag, multi-artist show, audiences were treated to works that spanned across and bled through genre, thematic content, and stylistic display.

Hankins’s Like a Sun, Excerpt 2, featured the choreographer in her own work. Wearing only flesh-colored tights and painted glitter, Hankins appeared alien in each precisely choreographed moment. Constrained within a red circle of twisted fabric, her body elegantly furled and unfurled through movements both minute and grand. Watching the choreographer dance her own steps gave a sense of watching clay sculpt itself, creator and creation as one.
In Net / / Works, Dyberg offered the most satisfying piece of the evening. Joining forces with sound engineer/composer Jesse French (working onstage with the three dancers), Dyberg created a short work that begged for longer stage time. The opening sequence consisted of Dyberg seated alone at a table with two chairs. As she switched between roles of immigration officer and immigrant, French’s soundtrack triggered pantomimic choreography and deliberate gesture in a one-sided conversation danced against a taped voice. Dyberg rendered both characters well, especially as she transformed into the crisp, clipped officer persona. In the following series of solos and duet transitions, Dyberg dove into a weighty vocabulary of circular expansion and contraction. Each dancer rendered an articulate performance: Mariko Nagashima extended beyond the axes of her petite frame; Victoria McConnell perfected the illusion of collapse while still solidly under control, puppet-like at times; Dyberg combined sensual fluidity with eccentricities of movement into a blend of post-hip-hop and contemporary dance. Because of the stark contrast between the beginning of the work and subsequent sections, Net / / Works’s ending needed a return to the innovatively voiced-over danced pantomime for better balance.
UMAMI Performance presented excerpts from Constellation Half-Remembered, a series of performance events in Seattle May through August. Accompanied by video projections, Constellation wove dreamlike fragments into a multi-faceted conversation where each dancer “spoke” over the others. Use of props–a suitcase filled with reel-to-reel film and a small child’s chair–enhanced the dreamlike quality. This work was well suited to the intimate space of Raisbeck Hall where details would be lost in a larger venue.
Wallich’s It girl and them, an extended solo for the lovely Erica Badgeley, tended toward prolonged periods of stillness. In movement sections, Badgeley showed restraint in her use of energy, turning into a stalking predator, completely efficient in muscle use and line. Wallich framed the solo with heavy walking, Badgeley’s feet pounding a counterpoint to the buzzing drone of the score.
In Together We Fall, Ross and Yamamoto explored inherent perceptions about staged duets, bringing to mind Balanchine’s remark about two dancers on stage being sufficient material for a story. Two chairs placed onstage in the darkness became another duet layer within the work. Although Ross and Yamamoto spent most of the piece without focusing specifically on each other (in eye contact as well as physical contact), the staging of two dancers and two chairs implied connection. At one point, the empty chairs were placed diagonally facing each other center stage while the dancers executed separate solos at opposite points of the focal line, the empty chairs depicting more relationship than the dancers. In Together’s last section, an almost invisible interviewer posited questions as Ross and Yamamoto answered while still dancing. Through their answers, the work finally became relational as Ross and Yamamoto discussed their partnership and the piece. The contrast of performing and discussing dance simultaneously created a beautiful struggle between muscle and mind.
Wednesday’s Spotlight on Seattle was filled with the lithe bodies and skilled artistry of top-level performers, lighted by designer Sara Torres’ expert eye for the nuances of shadow and color. In an evening where dancers often shone brighter than the choreography presented, respect is due to choreographers willing to experiment with conceptualizing the need for beginning, middle, and end within dance works. As this was possibly due to the excerpted nature of some pieces, Seattle audiences must watch for final versions by Hankins, Wallich, Ross and Yamamoto, as well as the complete series by UMAMI Performance. SIDF continues through June 23.  For information, visit