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Punchbowl Provides the Party

Dancers scooch around the stage with shuffled feet and raised shoulders. Audience members are conversing and greeting each other from across the room as lofi music plays in the background. The theater space is cozy, held by brick walls on either side of the stage. The dancers traverse the stage and lobby, creating a gestural pre show while new patrons file in. 

Photo by Neil Kaethler

This atmosphere sets the tone for Alex Kronz’s Butterfly Effects, the first work in Punchbowl, an interactive dance show promising movement, community, and snacks. The program asks audiences to think of the show as a house party “except more artsy and way less sticky.” Dressed in a brown color palette and arranged in a diamond shape, the dancers in Kronz’s work laugh, fix their clothing, pull their chins to their chests, and run their fingers up their sternums. Eventually the diamond shape begins to infiltrate the audience, with one dancer traveling up the audience steps and back down to the stage. There is an interesting play between the jovial pre show environment and the now ominous music and lighting. 

Butterfly Effects later expands beyond the theater space as some dancers leave to perform in the lobby. Both the stage and lobby dancers complete movements traveling towards the back of the building and then the front simultaneously. These matching moments are visible through the side door, providing a small peak into both spaces at once. It is a simple but striking choreographic choice, making me think of similar conversations happening at a party across a large room. Kronz’s work fits in well to the show’s setup and offers a lovely introduction to the possibilities of the space.

Photo by Neil Kaethler

In addition to choreographing (and dancing in Kirk’s work later in the night), Kronz is also a co-producer alongside Emma Rose DeSantis, Bridget Kirk, Alison Kozar and Symone Sanz. In the opening remarks, Kirk expresses that the team wants to continue to have future Punchbowl performances. Every person’s biography in the program lists at least two roles next to their name– a testament of Punchbowl’s determination even with a small team.

Bridget Kirk’s Connotations was originally created for an art gallery, now adapted to fit 18th & Union. This work built off of Kronz’s use of multiple spaces, featuring one duet in the stage area and one in the lobby. Unlike Kronz’s work, Connotations didn’t provide moments of unison amongst the two spaces. Instead, the duets existed independently and swapped back and forth between the two options. 

Photo by Neil Kaethler

At one point in Connotations dancer Ansley Dawn frantically twists her torso, while her duet partner Michael Walton sits unbothered, pretending to read a book. Later, dancers Anna Joswiak and Alex Kronz appear to be challenging each other to a soft modern dance battle. They take turns one-upping each other with undulating shoulders and diagonal movement before dipping into a slow section, now traveling inches at a time to minimal bell music. The work introduces a juxtaposition of peace and chaos, with the nature of the duets shifting frequently. It feels as though they might represent the same people with changing relationships over long periods of time, or they might be different people played by the same dancer. The larger traveling movements left me wishing the performers had more space, but they did an excellent job navigating the confines of the small stage and making the most of it.

Intersection marks the third work of the night, danced and choreographed by Emma Rose DeSantis and Bethany Lynch. This work begins with the dancers seated on stage, surrounded by the modest glow of a spotlight and quiet instrumental music. The conversations happening in the lobby infiltrate the space, peppering the focused tone of the work with snippets of celebratory exchanges. The dance feels private, as if those remaining in the theater are about to witness something special. 

Photo by Briana Jones.

This duet relies heavily on unison movement, featuring attitude turns on the diagonal, outstretched arms, and swipes along the floor. The strongest component of this work is the flow state of the choreography, and how well that pairs with the electric guitar soundtrack. I can get behind a variety of different choreographic relationships to sound, but there is something incredibly satisfying about watching movement that feels like it was made for the music it’s performed to. The choreography is full bodied without becoming overindulgent. The performers execute each step into the next one without interruptions, creating this delicious kinesthetic momentum driven by the sound. This work appears fully developed in movement quality, landing in the performers’ bodies exactly as it is meant to.

Kara Beadle’s work Inspect Before Use was also recently featured in Next Fest NW. You can read more about that performance here. In this new version of the work the dancers playfully rearrange audience members, directing us onto the stage, into the seats, and against the walls of the theater. The stage’s low ceiling makes for an additional element of danger, but the dancers navigate the ladders like true professionals.

As a whole, this performance maintains the social atmosphere while presenting both serious and lighthearted moments. I enjoyed running into familiar faces, chatting throughout the night, and taking in the variety of works that were shown. I appreciate the multi-room party format and hope to see more from Punchbowl Productions in the future. 

 

Punchbowl ran January 27, 2024 – January 28, 2024 at 18th and Union.