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SIDF Brings New Ideas

This past weekend, June 19-21, dancers at Raisbeck Hall performed a vast array of work as part of Cyrus Khambatta’s tenth annual Seattle International Dance Festival. The festival, currently in its tenth consecutive year, is a phenomenal event that redefines Seattle as a player in the international dance scene and provides local audiences the opportunity to witness a globally relevant array of work. Local artists Marlo Martin and Ezra Thomson presented choreography alongside other national and international artists in Weekend 2 of the festival’s Inter|National Series–creating an entertaining and diverse compilation of movement with nearly every aesthetic in its roundhouse.


badmarmarDANCE Photo by
Photo by Joseph Lambert

Martin, artistic director of Seattle’s eXit SPACE school of dance and director of badmamarDANCE, presented two works throughout the course of the weekend. Her excerpt from Sway highlighted the nine badmamarDANCE company members with a sort of finite ferocity, the movement a visceral array of speed and variation executed with simultaneous individuality and unison. Set against a darkly lit backdrop, the dancers engaged in a feverish display of athleticism. Moving between speeds, arriving in disjointed shapes, or else manipulating each other’s bodies, they danced to the point of exhaustion, and ultimately collapse, against bass-driven electronic music and the sound-score of their own breath. Although Sway could have used cleaner transitions, the similarly dark and athletic Sly (performed by seven Threshold Institute dancers) managed an impressively seamless performance, especially considering the group’s diverse range of performers.


Dancing People Company, a troupe based in Ashland, Oregon, performed two works as well: Love and Navigation: Determining Course, Position and Distance Traveled and Slippery, both choreographed by artistic director Robin Stiehm. The first, a colorful and vivacious group number, explored the ins and outs of love via linear extensions of the limbs, vocal expression, and tactile gesture sequences. Though the choreography did not appear fully or deeply investigated from a compositional standpoint, it was danced well nonetheless. Slippery, in contrast, was an earnest, dreamscape duet performed by Veronica DeWitt and Brianna Rae Johnson that showcased the dancers in complex sequences and technical modern movement. Although partner work in both pieces could have been far more easeful and choreographically tighter, Stiehm’s company successfully demonstrated a clear set of aesthetic values and the promising nature of using diversely trained dancers.


Ezra Thomson's  Photo by Rex Turner
Ezra Thomson’s Collaboration – 2015
Photo by Rex Tranter

Meanwhile, Ezra Thomson, a corps de ballet member at Pacific Northwest Ballet brought a fresh, funny, and creative twist to Sunday evening’s performance with Collaboration- 2015. It was Step Up all over again and with a dance fusion twist. A full-fledged dance battle that pitted ballet against hip hop, the work contrasted, melded, and transposed the two art forms with tact and humor, ultimately revealing itself as a showcase of raw talent and cross-disciplinary potential. Though Thomson’s work appeared simplified and transparent in many ways, it was an entertaining experience to say the least.


Vancouver-based company Hong Kong Exile presented something entirely different that lives, perhaps, within its own realm of creativity. NINEEIGHT was a memorable, haunting, and utterly disturbing visual experience–in both its choreographic intensity and unrefined social relevance. The dancers shifted between shaky spasms, pedestrian movement, blood-curdling screams, choruses of “yeah!”, posing, stumbling, and a particularly disquieting sequence of mimed stabbing which lasted far longer than was comfortable. NINEEIGHT, which spoke distinctly to the Hong Kong-Mainland conflict, was performance art with a life of its own and one that ought to be applauded for its honesty, depth, and surreal tension. Beautifully performed and unforgettably unsettling (especially to those who may watch with less context), Hong Kong Exile’s presentation was an exciting contribution to this year’s festival and an exciting work in the international field.

SIDF’s eclectic range of performances will continue into next weekend with an entirely new program. For more information visit: