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The many queens secured their crowns, arms lifting in a long slow arc to stop poised above their heads, fingers splayed and theoretical crowns fastened. We were gazing at royalty. La Tercera Reina (translation: the third queen) choreographed by Alicia Mullikin was inspired by “la primera Reina,” Mullikin’s Nana. She must be one unforgettable matriarch, because these dancers were beautifully captivating, rightly terrifying, truly powerful, and ready to throw down.

Photo by Jazzy Photo

Sharp hisses filled the Erikson Theater. As the queens moved across the stage, one-hand cartwheeling, come-at-me walking, and pounding their fists in the air, they hissed with short, sharp breaths, an aural manifestation of femme power, a loud symbol of attack. They were warriors – maybe protecting their loved ones or perhaps toppling the white, xenophobic patriarchy.

La Tercera Reina was one of many brilliant performances during Tint Dance Festival, a unique and potent festival in the Seattle dance scene. According to Artistic Directors and founders Sue Ann Huang and Arlene Martin, Tint seeks to raise the critical consciousness around racial and ethnic representation so that artists and audiences will be inspired to dialogue about their own diverse experiences around identity. In a city where being a paid dancer, choreographer, and artistic director often overlap with being White, Tint provides a necessary space to celebrate and showcase dancers and choreographers of color.

Photo by Jazzy Photo

The night began with Laura Ann Symth’s Discombobulate, a high energy jazz piece to music by Kamasi Washington, a contemporary jazz artist famous for collaborating with Kendrick Lamar, and a frenetic saxophonist who framed Symth’s dynamic dancing with vigor. The dancers sported velour everything as they stretched their jazz hands, rocked with rhythm, and rolled their hips. Reaching their arms like warm honey, the dancers smiled, head towards the sky and eyes closed.

Warren Woo, Seattle dancer and photographer, choreographed Take Me With You, a contemporary performance with impressive partnering and creative shapes. Repeating motions, like swinging one leg forty-five degrees back and forth and a pattern of twisting arms right to left, lent to a familiarity of movement, the desperation of doing the same thing over and over, imbued with a longing to follow someone or something. Often the dancers would hold each other’s heads as if offering comfort or control. Even more often, they would lift each other up in splendid displays of defying gravity as only dancers can do.

Photo by Jazzy Photo

PRICEarts, Seattle dance artist and choreographer Noelle Price’s company, performed Breath After Life. The piece seemed to explore life and death, and all the struggle and beauty in between. Starting in a fetal-like position, dancers popped up and down in canon, beginning their movement from death to life or maybe afterlife. A signature lift, where a dancer sprang into the air, pulled back by other dancers, kicking as if to escape, signaled a fighting spirit. Beauty emerged as dancer, Robert Moore, chasséd side to side, flicking his leg in attitude, rolling his head back in release, and sighing deep, beautiful breaths. A frantic circling of two dancers juxtaposed a calm line of others, laying on their backs, stretching hands out to the wall, life and movement showcased by death and stillness. In a mysterious hint to the divine, the dancers ended the piece by balancing on their tail bones, arms floating in the air, reaching to the ethers.

Photo by Jazzy Photo

A nod to older, snazzier times, Ayako Shapiro, in coordination with the dancers, created Hey There, Peach Pot to musical selections by Billie Holiday and others. Small quips of physical comedy dotted the performance: sticking fingers in each others’ faces, dancers using their head to push others on stage, waddling duck walks,, and a line of arms chugging like train wheels. Hey There, Peach Pot also made ample use of the cuddle puddle – dancers piled one on top of each other in camaraderie, humor, and jigsaw puzzle-like interconnectedness.

Also in collaboration with the dancers, Jenny Boissiere choreographed Alone They Fall. A fidgeting line of people hovering downstage picked at their clothes and hair, performing insecurity, and canonically following the beat of the music. Equal parts beautiful and stressed, the dancers held each other, pulsed, quivered, and twitched, perhaps in support of solidarity in the face of rugged individualism.

Photo by Jazzy Photo

Tint Dance Festival did not for a moment disappoint. Even with a variety of dancers, choreographers, styles, and perspectives, each piece of the night was wonderful in one of the most consistently impressive multi-artist performances I’ve seen. In blending amazing dancing with a beautiful commitment to celebrating dancers and choreographers of color, Tint created magic. A festival Seattle audiences should look forward to every year.

Tint Dance Festival was performed at the Erickson Theater, February 22-24, 2019.