Velocity’s Fall Kick-Off 9/6

Velocity’s Fall Kick-Off event last Friday was my first taste of the contemporary (modern? postmodern? postpostmodern? we need to come up with some new terms…) dance scene here in Seattle.  It was an awesome event with some great dancing/art and a fun welcoming feel.

So, some thoughts and images that have stuck with me over the past few days…

TO/GET/Her – I will follow you – deep sea baby by Alice Gosti

  • an installation work that was ongoing throughout the evening in the back studio where the bar was located, TO/GET/HER… was visually stunning.  Wrapped in layers and layers of what looked to be toilet paper, with red colored ice cubes dripping onto the mass of material, Alice Gosti’s body was transformed into an alien-like form, her head becoming many times its normal size.  The way the material wrapped around her face evoked a visceral, claustrophobic reaction in me–I almost couldn’t look at her as she continued to wrap more and more paper around her head.

Keep On Smiling That Beautiful Smile, by Dayna Hanson

  • this quartet (Hanson, Jim Kent, Heather Kravas, and Dylan Ward) began the “proscenium” part of the evening and introduced the audience to several dancers who would appear again throughout the performance.  The dancers walked out to assume their positions in a lopsided V across the stage, in vaguely matching street clothes and shoes. Hanson delivered a verbal command to take their shoes off, and they did.  Dancing began with small movements from Kravas, that grew and expanded as other dancers joined her. While the dancing itself was gender neutral–both men and women performed the same or similar steps–the exact movements being performed at any given moment were divided along gendered lines; or, in other words, the men danced together and the women danced together.  I couldn’t quite figure where Hanson was going with this division, but would like to see the whole work when it premieres next year.
  • the ending image–after their shoes had been put back on–and the two men had moved up to the back of the stage space to do a shuffle-like tap step stuck with me most vividly.

Self Titled Mixtape Vol #4, by Markeith Wiley

  • interesting, but not totally my cup of tea.  It was just a bit too much for me: too much reliance on music and lyrics, too much stillness followed by large movement (yes, it’s cathartic, but really, I’ve seen it before), the non-shocking shock-value elements (as in, stripping to a dance belt or wearing a dress in a way that seems like it should be provocative, but isn’t actually provocative because to be shocked by such a thing in this day and age at a modern dance concert would be rather naive or uncultured, and so both of these feelings need to be present at the same time–and yes, I got all those feelings from it–perhaps I overthink things), that the ending, which brought an audience member on stage to sit in the “bar” with Wiley, seemed overly contrived.
  • I did, however, think that Wiley has a real sense of the dramatic and of interesting ways of blending theater with movement.  As the piece is an excerpt of a longer work, I look forward to seeing the final project when it premieres next year and to see how all of the elements in the work come together.

eleven (excerpt), by Zoe Scofield

  • the largest cast on stage for the evening, this work seemed both a bit of a throwback (in a good way) and a very different look at Seattle contemporary dance than was presented by the other works on the program. The use of Bolero as the basis for the soundscape underscored the permeating sense that this piece made strange the familiar and overwrought.
  • clad in ombréd tights and leotards (for the women), the dancers remained on the floor, in the straddle splits, undulating their legs as if creeping forward, moving their arms and torsos in canon for the majority of the piece, reaching and pulling.  Three soloists developed the movement further as the piece progressed, before rejoining the group.
  • the sense of creature-ness was overpowering: hands came to mouths as if eating the insects their arms collected, the power of the mass, the tightly-clad bodies writhing–it played on the edge of the animal/dancer divide in a way that evoked Cunningham even as it was distinctly un-Cunningham-esque, except for, perhaps, the costumes.

Then there was intermission and a glass of wine with friend and also-recent-Seattle transplant, Owen David–more to come from him, I’m sure, as he enters into the scene here.

The execution of an entry, by Heather Kravas

  • this was a tour de force.  Kravas stood onstage, in only her underwear, visibly present, and worked her way through a constantly shortening version of the phrase “Does somebody wanna come in?” until only a bleating “in in in” remained.  From nagging mother, to sexual participant, to child, to dancer, to actress, and back again, her voice and body took the audience on a roller-coaster of beings, meanings, possibilities, and emotions until she walked off, her voice nearly giving out as she continued to chant.
  • I laughed; I was touched; I wondered what her child will think of all this when he or she turns about 10 🙂

Cold Light Day, by Dayna Hanson

  •  a dance film of Jim Kent and Dylan Ward shot at Lakebay Marina, it was beautiful and mesmerizing.  That said, it washed over me and didn’t leave any strong memories or images.  I remember the tap step returning from her piece earlier in the evening; I wrote down the word “flight.”  I’d love to see it again.

Worth My Salt, by Jody Kuehner/Cherdonna Shinatra

  • here, I’m going to plead the 5th until I see the rest of this evening-length performance last night.  As a newcomer up here, I think I need a little more context before I form any opinions–but let’s just say for now that I think I’d like Cherdonna to be my friend and her physical capacity for humor, for dance, for pathos was really unparalleled in the evening.
  • I will say that I wish I’d read some of the interviews with Jody/Cherdonna that have come out in the last few weeks before seeing the piece–would have provided some of the necessary context for me.  This one in particular was a great read.

If there’s one thing to say in wrapping up, it’s how clearly the evening showcased the blurring lines between dance and “performance art”.  Is there a line?  Should there be?  What is it?  There were many moments when I thought to myself, “I just wish there were more dancing” (and then, the grad student in me started dissecting that very desire and what that meant about my own expectations, beliefs, indoctrinated cultural norms, prejudices, etc…).

It also showcased just how much talent exists in this Seattle community.  I’m excited to continue to dive in and wish I could have attended the other 2 evenings with their different line ups of artists.

Tonight: Emeralds coaching at PNB!  Expect that post next week–and maybe also a post on NYU’s new ballet research institute!

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