Ten dancers in patterned leggings and black tailcoats infiltrate the space in bright lighting. They embark on slow, individualized choreography, each dancer’s journey connected through similar imagery, such as clustered fingers rising towards the sky. Dramatic orchestral music begins, and the choreography mimics the rises and falls of this commanding soundtrack.
symphonica in J, choreographed by jo Blake, fills the entirety of the stage with its growing momentum. Small groups simultaneously perform phrases that adhere to different elements of the music, playing on the theme of dancers as conductors. The energy builds exponentially until finally the dancers take short pauses for the first time, emphasizing the momentum the piece has produced until that point. Potential energy fills every second of stillness, percolating in the muscles of each performer. This work displays satisfyingly musicality as its core component.
Blake’s work is one of five pieces in the 2019 Full Tilt, organized by Evoke Productions and ongoing for over a decade. This festival was created in order to provide opportunities for selected choreographers and dancers to connect and share their passion for dance in the Seattle area. This year’s festival ran April 26-27 at Velocity Dance Center.
Saturn, choreographed by Phi VoBa, is the only hip hop piece of the evening, offering a break from the contemporary landscape. While it’s excellent that Full Tilt included this variety in genre, several of the dancers appear to be uncomfortable in the style. As a contemporary dominated festival, it is understandable that fewer dancers proficient in hip hop attended the festival’s audition. If Full Tilt continues to include hip hop pieces, they should attract more dancers experienced in the style to fully support the pieces they’re presenting. The performers with greater hip hop familiarity, such as Kaylyn Ready, stood out – her solo moment highlighting her ability to display complex dynamics and shift through different qualities with ease.
In Wait Space, choreographed by Sarah Alaways, the audience is invited to observe a world of cadets, commanded by a disembodied voice which provides instructions over the speakers. New recruit Margaret Behm has just joined this confusing landscape and is hilariously out of place, struggling to keep up with unison choreography and questioning why the group is engaging in constant, unexplained rituals.
The dance shifts often in structure, but the militant nature of each movement remains constant. Text becomes a clear feature of the piece as dancers speak aloud fragments of memory. They seem to be collectively describing the memories of one person.
Wait Space is detailed, fleshed out, and leaves the audience with a lot to unpack. It seems to investigate anxiety related to revisited memories, and the uselessness of concern over unchangeable moments. In this fictional world, cadets take on the weight of memory, reliving previous worry without positive resolve.
Warren Woo’s Patchwork blends modern and ballet vocabulary as dancers progress through the space in linear patterns. Though this work featured committed performers, it lacks choreographic progression and thematic content. Limited phrase work appears to be the main source of material for the work, and this material is repeated but not developed over time. Small moments of cohesive partnering broke away from this structure, but these moments did not have time to resonate before dissolving into more of the same phrase material.
Ghir Enta, choreographed by Elise Meiners Schwicht, begins with a stunning image of a two-person tower: one dancer, standing straight up, balanced on the feet of another dancer lying on their back, legs straightened to the ceiling. As the suspended dancer is lifted down from the tower slowly, Meg Ess cycles through a solo in the center of the stage, passing through leg extensions and frequent weight shifts, stunningly completing each movement to its true end. Another group downstage creates clock-like, angular movements in the arms, keeping a sharp rhythm that complements the dynamics present in solo and opposing group.
This opening scene offers an important view into what is to come – a work of many diverse moving pieces, expertly arranged at every moment by Meiners Schwicht. Ghir Enta switches music and structure often, with frequent song changes and rearranging of the group construction. The precise attention to piecing together a varying group allows the piece develop over time even within these abrupt changes. It creates the sense that though different pursuits are explored throughout the group, a strong mutual energy is carrying each performer to their next movement. At one point, the group creates a clump and unites in choreographed pulses through the upper body. In these unison moments, the group has a distinct communal understanding.
Full Tilt proves to be a space where a variety of artists have a platform to develop new works and experiment with choreographic choices. It is commendable that they continue to produce this festival annually, as it is an asset to the Seattle dance scene, and can result in incredible pieces like Ghir Enta. Meiners Schwicht’s choreography is meticulously organized and gloriously interesting – a clear standout of the evening.