The person standing next to you begins melting to the floor. The crowd tries not to step on dancers slithering through their feet. Suddenly a circle is cleared for another dancer (Alyza DelPan-Monley) to frantically fold and collect papers. Dylan Ward herds the crowd into a wider circle, recites a myth about a seal, and then cheekily describes each of his accompanying motions. Alexandra Maricich revolves slowly on a stool above the crowd, drinking wine from a giant bottle and letting it dribble down her gown. Welcome to Trigger.
A quarterly event curated by local dancer and choreographer Molly Sides, Trigger: New Dance Happenings, is just that, a happening. It’s a performance that feels like it’s happening to you, but one that you’re simultaneously a part of. This is exactly Sides’ goal. “It’s a way for people to come together in an intimate setting and interact, and see performance in a way you don’t see it very often,” explained Sides in a recent interview with SeattleDances. With Trigger Sides has certainly created a distinct audience experience. Movement seems to spring from different points in the room and people shift to see what’s going on. Transitions are organic, there’s no crowd control necessary, everyone’s goal—to see what’s happening—is the same. Now in its sixth edition, the next Trigger will be held this Saturday, April 12, in the lobby of On the Boards directly following the performance of Holcombe Waller’s Wayfinders. Trigger is always a free event, and tickets to Wayfinders are not necessary to attend.
When asked about the idea behind Trigger, Sides explained its basic premise: “I just wanted to have a non-traditional place that doesn’t see movement happen often, bring movement there, and invite people who don’t perform very often and also people who don’t see performance often.” The original idea came in an epiphany while Sides was warming up onstage in a theater in Milwaukee. “I love stages,” she realized, “but I was tired of the conventional theater setting. […] And I love Vermillion,” the art gallery/bar on Capitol Hill that hosted Trigger for its first year. Sides recalled doing miniature case studies of how people moved through the gallery when looking at the featured artwork. “It’s such a cool space. People are just moving around [there] anyways.” She thought, “Man, Vermillion needs it,” and approached the gallery with her idea. Vermillion was similarly enthused about her plan, and donated the space for the event, leaving it to Sides to provide the people.
And provide people she did. Though the first four were held at Vermillion, the event grew quickly, so Sides began experimenting with different venues. “It’s about movement, it’s about different kinds of people. [So] let’s see what happens if we just move it around the city,” she thought. Lovecitylove was the first new location, and “it was everything it should have been. It filled up. People were respectful. The performers were awesome.” Indeed, the evening had a rich, vibrant feeling, filled with artistic possibilities.
Besides the pop-up performance feeling that stems from its venue swapping, perhaps the most notable aspect of Trigger is its underground vibe, like you’ve just joined some cool arty club you didn’t know you signed up for, and you aren’t sure what will happen next. “I like that there’s this weird rawness to it. There’s nothing really traditional or conventional about it. I really hope that it stays that way.” This is all in keeping with the “happening” part of the title. It’s a simple principle: “You’re there or you’re not. If you missed it, you missed it,” Sides quips. She promoted the first few events, but then let word of mouth run its course, trusting that people who wanted to know about it, would know about it. “Of course I want people to show up, so that the people who are performing have people watching them, [but] it isn’t about money or marketing. It’s literally just having an experience together.”
Though that experience is partially generated by the make-up of the crowd itself, it is mainly carried by the evening’s performers. Primarily chosen by Sides—only a few people have asked to perform in Trigger and there’s no formal audition process—the performers at the January edition were all captivating in their own right. Sides recognizes that there’s no dearth of talent in Seattle, but that performance opportunities can sometimes be difficult to find. Trigger creates a space for artists to present work in a slightly informal but still visible format. “There are so many incredible performers in this community that don’t [necessarily] have the push to perform or apply for the right grants. [Trigger] is about seeing people that I like seeing perform, and didn’t get to see very much of.”
The crowd is equally important. “I’m really into people connecting. If I meet you, I want to shake your hand, I want to remember your name. Maybe [at Trigger] you’ll bump into someone and shake their hand.” Sides also is facilitating a way for people who don’t normally see performance to access dance. “Dancers see dancers. Actors see actors. Musicians see musicians. It’s this incestual thing.” Trigger aims to “broaden our audiences, broaden our inspirations. It’s for everybody and anybody,” which is the reason Sides is adamant about keeping it a free event.
As for Trigger’s future, it will continue to evolve and change with its venues, of which On the Boards will be the latest. “I hope that it never becomes too small or too large. I hope that it just grows, just breathes all the time. And morphs. That’s the coolest part—being in different spaces and seeing how it shifts each one.” Though coy about exact details for future events, Sides says she’s “looking forward to July. I’m hoping that whatever form it will take in July, it happens. I think that’s the fun thing about it. It’s open.”