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Spotlight on Seattle Showcases Best in Technique, Creativity

Coriolis Dance
Photo by Ernie Sapiro
In an evening curated by innovative PNB soloist and choreographer, Kiyon Gaines, it seemed fitting that classical and contemporary dance forms collided at the 8th SIDF’s Thursday Spotlight on Seattle showcase on June 20, 2013. The performance at Cornish College of the Arts’ Raisbeck Performance Hall featured artists at the top of their game in technique and creativity: from a quirky, ballet-based performance by Coriolis Dance, to a thought-provoking and audience-participation piece by Shannon Stewart.    


Coriolis started things off with a piece they describe as “artists imagining the unknowns of the galaxy.” Dressed in see-through goggles, sports bras and high-waisted shorts, Coriolis co-founders Natascha Greenwalt Murphy and Christin Call explored the stage like WALL-E robots. A video of outer-space projected on the wall, as well as dynamic live music by electric violinist Jackie An, helped to create an alien, sci-fi environment. While the piece is on the long side, and a work in progress, Call and Greenwalt Murphy have generated a compelling collection of movement. Their rock-solid technique brings Trey McIntyre Project to mind, and sets a standard for dance in Seattle.

From there, the program moved on to MADMAN by Amy Johnson, named one of “Seattle’s most promising emerging choreographers” by Velocity Dance Center. It was refreshing to see classical modern-dance elements such as one might see in New York presented in this more experimental, Seattle setting. Dancing to ominous music that almost resembled the Jaws soundtrack, the four powerful women, dressed in black and metallic leggings, refused to be ignored. Their movements were thrilling in almost a villainous way, and the dramatic side-parts in their hair, and makeup that played up each woman’s eyebrows, added to the intensity. If MADMAN is any indication, Johnson has certainly earned such an honor from Velocity. It will be exciting to see what she does next.
Next up was Ashani Dances’ Like Sand Between My Fingers choreographed by Iyun Harrison. With a simple spotlight to set the boundaries of the dance, this piece was an impassioned portrayal of a young man’s loss of his mother danced by recent Cornish graduate, Sam Picart. Two dynamic vignettes showcasing Picart’s nimble footwork ended with the young man laying on the floor, as if asleep. When the lights came up again, Brenna Monroe-Cook appeared, watching over Picart like a guardian angel before going into a solo, which ended with her holding her “son” in her arms. Harrison did a remarkable job showcasing the unique talents of his dancers, and telling a story with tenderness and intrigue.  
badmarmarDANCE’s Without context or provocation was a reflection of what choreographer Marlo Martin does best: utterly physical, expressive and emotional group dance that finds a way to give each person a chance to shine. The piece is set to a soundtrack of the dancers’ expressing their thoughts and feelings on how they define themselves, who holds them up and what they believe in. Martin describes these women as “physical wizards,” which could not be more accurate, especially considering talent such as powerhouse Danica Bito. Bito, who also danced in Johnson’s MADMAN, is truly one to watch in the dance scene: with extension that stands to amaze, and a fearlessness that propels her as equally into the air as the floor.  
The evening concluded with the brilliant Shannon Stewart smashing down the fourth wall, and inviting willing members of the audience to join her on stage. She performed an excerpt of Come. Get. To. This, essentially, a dance about making a dance. The piece chronicled her current reality, as well as her current creative process which has included paying her musician friend $40 to write a string quartet. “In a time where we’re supposed to be settling down, so many of my friends and loved ones are in transition, in between partners, jobs.” Stewart is in between projects, she explains. When she invited people to join her on stage, the directions were simple—people could respond to her movements, or watch as an observer. The great thing about this piece was, rather than getting up in people’s faces or making the audience uncomfortable (not that this can’t be of value), Stewart humbly asked people to come on a journey with her. The audience happily obliged.
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