12 Minutes Max is the gift to Seattle that keeps on giving. It’s always a glimpse into what’s being developed right now in the local performance scene and last weekend at Base was no exception. Curated this time by Christie Zhao and Naomi Blue, the show delivered eight distinct works rich with personality, purpose, and big ideas.
Leah James Russell’s Succubus opens with a strained, choking gasp. Then the lights flip on and Russell practically bounces towards the audience with a chipper “Ohmygod, hi!” So begins a monologue of deferential appeals to the audience accompanied by giggling and an exaggerated girlish persona. Do you like my dress? I just want to please you. Was that too much? Intermittent flashes of anger and aggression rise to the surface only to be batted back down. Eventually Russell succumbs to these darker impulses, transforming into what can only be described as a lethal dancing machine. Crouched and contorted, their creature-like acrobatics show off Russell’s liquid control and physical prowess, all framed by horror movie smiles and aggressive seductive power. Once the dancing begins it is simply exposition of the transformed character, leaving me to wonder if the initial eager-to-please persona had been an act all along, or if the character just completely shed its former self. The dancing is impressive and I think if developed, the choreography could also bring complication and depth to this character to match the capricious starting monologue.
It’s an interesting piece to start with because Succubus feels in dialogue with several other works throughout the evening, though each with distinct style and perspective. Iveliz Martel’s Buda Errante (Wandering Buda) also engages with over-the-top character to great effect. In a belted, brocade coat (shoulder pads halfway to the moon!), the Chilean actor parades before the audience, a bored wealthy housewife on a flight of fancy. She gobbles her cigarette in one bite, pours her wine without looking, flirts with the audience, and has conversations with her nervous housekeeper (also played by Martel). The comedic timing is spot on and the non-linear narrative keeps each moment fresh and surprising. Towards the end Martel ditches the brocade for a dark cloak and humble demeanor, now a children’s author answering interview questions. I don’t have a cohesive takeaway except that I hope this is getting developed into a full-length work because it feels like this piece has more to say, and I could watch Martel’s strange shapeshifting all evening.
In Conversations on Bargaining, a pinned-to-the-ground Samantha Fabrikant looks up in startled alertness as if to some surprise from above. Backing up on tip toes as arms push away, swinging an invisible bat, each movement describes a world we cannot see, but in which Fabrikant is immersed. The opening is then contextualized as Fabrikant approaches a microphone. “Do any of you have that relationship to someone where you have so much to say but you’ll never say anything because you’re worried it will cause the sixth mass extinction?” It’s funny but also penetrating, speaking to the experience of being in a relationship in which one must constantly be on the defense. The opening of invisible dangers is apropos. Fabrikant has long list of entreaties (“I beg you to like what I’m doing”) that echo Russell’s earlier supplication, though this time on a much more human level, the clear awareness of her own self-compromise all the more heart-wrenching.
Another deeply personal piece is McKenzie Raynor’s Square One, where Raynor moves from falling, rolling, defeated movements into a place of strength, donning her pointe shoes and stripping to her undergarments along the way. Choreographically, the dance movements are a bit conventional and maybe not doing as much as they could to tell Raynor’s story. That being said, I can recognize an artist who is not just portraying a risk, but taking one, and that vulnerability is a powerful statement all on its own. Plus, there’s a backbend en pointe, which takes CHOPS.
While the show was heavy on solos, one in particular, at the lost and found, evokes multiples. Through clever lighting design, billed creator Eviana, Evan, Ev crafts a world where the dancer trios with two shadow-selves on the wall. Playing with the angle of light, the shadows sometimes stretch and distort, sometimes act in unison, and other times appear to dance of their own accord. Thoughtfully folding lighting design into the choreography of sweeping, lilting tenderness, Eviana, Evan, Ev brilliantly merges the conceptual and visual.
Finely honed choreography is also on display in Wade Madsen Group’s The Scent of Listening. Seven dancers in vintage dresses and suits walk in unison groups that splinter and rejoin like eddies in a stream. Accented with contemplative pauses, the dancers perform a single gesture that then dissolves back into the walking flow. An old timey recording of mechanical instructions is inter-spliced with contemplative string music and the occasional marimba beat, while the dancers repeat classic jazz dance moves in a rotating sequence. Everything evokes a sense of the past, or perhaps a celestial view of time passing and folding in on itself. The dancers stand in a circle, turning toward each other in slow motion, expanding the space of a moment, before snapping back to the present and the moment is washed away.
in anticipation of the golden hour begins with a checklist: “Dress, bun, bow, hammer, saw…” she says in references to the items she’s brought with her, “OH, glasses!” She runs off stage, returning with five-foot cardboard spectacles. It’s a humous start to Flatchestedmama’s comedic and touching treatise on aging and loneliness. She sits and plays her saw—the haunting wail of the instrument counterpoint to a clever slideshow of text and images that is rapid fire poetry and punchlines. Screen shots of Tinder notifications give her updates on her “likability” and varicose veins are compared with tree roots. “Love sick on someone else’s love story” it reads, as the artist’s own name and image are rendered in the style of a Call Me by Your Name movie poster. The pacing is immersive—I’m only just catching one image before the next arrives—but each snapshot deepens the understanding, painting a vivid impression of the artist’s inner life over the trajectory of the piece.
Closing out the evening is the collaborative and cross-disciplinary work of Moonyeka and the collective House of Kilig, waling-waling palpitations. Video projections by Arabella Bautista pair sumptuous and distorted flower images with lines of sensual nature poetry. In coordination, Moonyeka and fellow dancer Gaby Colon lounge upstage in gauzy pinks and purples. Their costumes, by Heidi Grace Acuna, contain large petal forms that transforms the dancers into the literal image of an orchid. Their dance of poses orbits one another, occasionally coming into contact for a held shape, or a brief burst of choreography. The movement has a non-committal, aimless quality and it’s hard to know if that’s unintended, or if the artists are just going for a floaty, playfully languid vibe. Either way, it’s an ambitious vision of design elements coming together to create a memorable aesthetic world.
12 Minutes Max Edition Three took place June 25-26, 2023 at Base Experimental Arts.