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Quirky Delights on Parade at ‘Mo-Wave!

A perusal through ‘Mo-Wave!’s website yields a flurry of weighty (-ed?) phrases: “a showcase of raw queer talent,” “a live and loud acknowledgement,” “uniqueness as a beacon and a shield.” The most striking self-description answers the why behind the weeklong festival: “Because we like weirdos.” ‘Mo-Wave! Festival 2014 closed last Friday, April 18, at Velocity Dance Center with an exhibition of installations, dance, and performance art, each work investigating individual perspectives about “queerness” and gelling into a compelling evening about human relationships curated by Matt Drews. Each piece at ‘Mo-Wave! examined relationships–whether through the eyes of a meth addict in Seth Tankus’ dramatic monologue Me. I’m Not.; via Paris Hurley’s extended monologue, The Stories We Tell, that blurred lines between lies we tell ourselves and those we tell others; or in the closing installation, the chaotic, overtly personal Us In Three by Ariana Bird and Chelsea Rodino.

James Kent and Dylan Ward at 'Mo Wave Photo by  Jim Toohey
James Kent and Dylan Ward in Dogged
Photo by Jim Toohey

Structurally, ‘Mo-Wave! veered from the traditional seated theatrical performance, bookending the evening with art installations using Velocity’s smaller studio spaces, requiring active movement from the audience out of their seats. The opening piece, Darling If You Want Me To, by MKNZ, provided a great appetizer for the exhibit. Seated on an upended concrete block, the artist faced a tall panel, suspended from the ceiling and held in place by one arm, the other outstretched through a hole in the panel. A responsive re-do of an earlier collaboration with an ex, MKNZ sat alone, posing an uncomfortable question about the relevance of collaborative performance art post-relationship.

Many of the more dance-heavy works blurred the lines between dance and performance art. Juan Franco and Josh Taylor’s A Wish of Salt. An Obsidian Gesture was a complicated portrait of betrayal that included one of the evening’s most difficult to watch moments: Franco consumed a container of table salt–coughing, choking, and red-eyed. kt shores’ What Remains Illuminated began with an elegant solo within a bright pool from a single light (shedding physical clothing alongside metaphorical layers throughout) and ended with clever satire involving a gelatin mold as flesh stand-in, her deadpan vocal delivery as on-point as her powerful dancing.

 at 'Mo-Wave! Photo by  Jim Toohey
Juan Franco in A Wish of Salt. An Obsidian Gesture
Photo by Jim Toohey

Dylan Ward and James Kent’s surrealistic creation Dogged included gentle softshoe and live accordion. This farcical look at human relationships combined the feeling of a living room conversation and a relaxed rehearsal, the dancers at times even breaking character and laughing at the content and themselves. Instead of coming across as unprofessional, these breaks felt genuine and lighthearted, although the piece overall left a yearning for more pure movement by these two lovely dancers.

Gender Tender’s Family/Portrait also used humor to explore relationships as the dancers posed together center-stage and stated their “characters,” such as “Jessie,” his “ex,” his “future ex-wife,” his “voice coach,” and his “cat” (drolly portrayed by Hendri Walujo.) Snapshot portraiture and verbal character exposition were followed by a physical manifestation of the range of tenderness and violence inherent in “family” situations. The work ended using the two chairs to represent characters engaging in sexual acts, a quirky bit of prop comedy that left the audience laughing.

Kyle Bernbach at 'Mo-Wave! Photo by Jim Toohey
Kyle Bernbach in Like a Ripe Fruit Ready to Burst
Photo by Jim Toohey

‘Mo-Wave also presented two solos of pure dancing: Elby Brosch’s Palliation and Matt Drews’ Like a Ripe Fruit Ready to Burst, danced by Kyle Bernbach. Each work showcased the performers’ exquisite control: Brosch’s tightly compact musculature rippled and glided silently through space, while Bernbach’s statuesque height and long limbs fluidly carved the air. Both pieces invited repeated viewings (as did shores’ What Remains Illuminated).

‘Mo-Wave! 2014’s performance exhibition at Velocity Dance Center paraded a wide variety of fascinating works representative of the highly original and vibrant Seattle art scene. This “showcase of raw queer talent” spoke to our humanity and the search for meaningful relationships, no matter our differences. Perhaps that is the reason for the exhibition’s overall success: exploring the underlying queerness, uniqueness, weirdness, and quirkiness we all share.

For more information on ‘Mo-Wave!, visit the festival website.