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BOOST 2024

By Hannah March

Two dancers emerge downstage in silence. One hooded, the other’s body and face clearly visible. Beginning at a slower pace, the duet changes levels and power dynamics through sharp gestures and alternating movements of forceful manipulation and support. The partnering continues and repeats, increasing in speed each time. The sounds of their bodies slapping, faster and louder breathing fill the room. As this grows, other hooded dancers appear from upstage. The first holding a golden-yellow hood in their hand. One by one, the dancers carry and pass off the hood, walking in a slow diagonal towards the duet until they arrive to the unhooded dancer. He puts it on, and they are officially a clear ensemble.

Finding oNe with The Desert, choreographed by Rodrick Barnes. Photo by Jazzy Photo.

Finding oNe with The Desert, choreographed by Rodrick Barnes in collaboration with the dancers, is one of six works featured in this year’s BOOST Dance Festival, produced by eXitSPACE. Director, Marlo Martin, begins with a quick welcoming intro for the sold out show explaining the mission of BOOST, which brings together seasoned Seattle dance artists and the city’s emerging choreographers on one bill. With an encouraged, supportive energy in the audience, the night brings together community and is nothing short of open, beautiful, and celebratory. Other featured artists include, Arinze Okammor, Nicole Cardona, Tyra Rose, Bridget Kirk, Eva Crystal & Irvin Torres, and the annual return of Marlo Martin’s badmarmarDANCE to close out the festival.

Now unified with the hoods of yellow, green, and red, Barnes’ dancers prepare to defend themselves from the unexpected. The choreography shows off the strength and ease of each artist, displaying actions of preparation and training for whatever is that will soon affect this team. Solos, partnering, and groupings naturally emerge from the flowing amoeba of bodies in supportive lifts, moments of suspension, and fight. Shifts in power dynamics convey a theme of rebuilding–the crumbling and blooming of bodies feels like a natural cycle of life and progress. The cast portrays this proverbial message of never losing hope, despite the obstacles and setbacks, and gives a sense of determination moving forward.

Arinze Okammor’s meticulously choreographed piece Can We Talk About It? fused contemporary and hip hop forms into the evening’s standout performance. Okammor’s work optimistically explores topics of grief and mistrust, with upbeat rhythmic phrases of dialogue and music. Two opposing groups support two spotlighted characters, Kate Henderson and Emily Vazquez, who embody two computer-esque voices conversing over a phone call. The movement, complementing the track’s intricacies with staccato dynamic choices, bounces back and forth from character to character, translating the blaming and assuming dialogue. 

Bridget Kirk’s Becoming One With the Stucco. Photo by Jazzy Photo.

Interspersed with this futuristic, digital conversation, “Someone Great,“ by LCD Soundsystem, and an original sound composition from choreographer Okammor himself, guide the cast with sound effects to give a mechanical, built, and technical feel. The luscious grounding, precise gestures, and musical timing with the ticks, booms, drills, and beeps allow the hip-hop qualities to shine through. It is clear how much time and attention went into every moment of the intricate, brisk, choreography set by Okammor.

Eva Crystal and Irvin Torres’ Honk If You’re Lonely follows this duo through quirky humor, queerness, and joy. Crystal and Torres bring the fun of their friendship to the stage, inviting us to join in the laughter through upbeat, nostalgic music, matching floral jackets, and unexpected pauses of stillness that aid in the comedic effect. Claro|Oscuro, by Nicole Cardona, explores ideas of internal reflection with community support through slow, self-examining moments of suspension. These opportunities of reflection are made possible through the physical foundation of the surrounding dancers, with their bodies being bases to hold weight and poetically, hold each other. Impulse Control #3 from choreographer Tyra Rose brings a bright, fun switch to the show’s program. Rose’s dancers bodaciously groove together with slow confident walks, sharp layouts, sweeping slides, and whimsical lifts. The fierceness and sass these dancers possess is natural and difficult to look away from. In Bridget Kirk’s Becoming One With the Stucco, rotating duets melt, spiral, and lovingly hold one another, while weaving in and out of barriers that enclose the emotional space where these relationships exist. Kirk’s thoughtful and intimate creations allow viewers to reflect on how we approach these bonds in our lives.

A Capricious Act of Lion Hearted Wolves by badmarmarDANCE/Marlo Martin. Photo by Jazzy Photo.

A Capricious Act of Lion Hearted Wolves by badmarmarDANCE/Marlo Martin, (an excerpt from the company’s upcoming evening-length work to premiere in early 2025) sets the scene with cold, light blue lighting to create an environment that feels wild, unexpected, and dangerous. The dancers, dressed in long white, button-up tunics with black paint splatters, personify animalistic qualities through grounded agility, self-protective and instinctual. Whirling and gliding, the company falls, crawls, and tosses their bodies to one another in this moment of dark unknown, to then reveal a glowing aisle of white light from an area off stage. This drastic switch communicates a symbolic path of light and hope to the audience from the prior darkness, as the company gradually gains the strength to migrate across this new path.

 

BOOST Dance Festival ran from March 29-31, 2024 at NOD Theater. For more information, visit eXit SPACE’s website.
Featured image by Jazzy Photo.