Seattle International Dance Festival Finds the International in Seattle
Overwhelmed by the Seattle International Film Festival, I got a late start at the Seattle International Dance Festival, which closes this weekend with works from Scott Wells and Dancers and the Khambatta Dance Company formerly known as Phffft (June 18, 8 p.m.; June 19, 7:30 p.m.; tickets). Luckily Michael Upchurch has been all over it.
Scott Wells and Dancers, from San Francisco are presenting Call of the Wild and Ball-is-tic, while Khambatta gives you Rush, Centrifugal Force, and Interview with the American Dream. Here’s a taste of the Scott Wells troupe’s contact-partnering style, followed by an excerpt from American Dream.
As part of the festival, there’s a separate Spotlight on Seattle series, and it, along with On the Boards’ Northwest New Works Festival provides a low-commitment way to explore choreography and dance talent locally.
On a single night, Thursday, there were works from Donald Byrd, Kiyon Gaines, Maureen Whiting, Kate Wallich, Gabrielle Schutz, and Cyrus Khambatta. The evening was curated by Seattle Dance Project’s Timothy Lynch and Julie Tobiasson (co-founder Tobiasson is leaving the company, she announced recently), and there wasn’t much to complain about in their choices.
Donald Byrd was going to perform, but fell ill, so Lynch stepped in to dance Byrd’s “Lucky,” virtuosically, given his three-and-a-half hours of rehearsal. Even if you didn’t know the back story (Lucky is an autistic boy), you could see Lynch grow frustrated with his performance, lie down and spell out his name to calm himself, and pop back up to deliver a startling precise outburst, culminating in a series of hummingbird entrechats, his feet literally flickering.
Maureen Whiting’s myth of me and you featured Ezra Dickinson and Belle Wolf in an offbeat duet that I really enjoyed–their slowed, expansive movements, as if moving through a different atmosphere, contrasted with their bumping and tangling with each other, palming faces and pushing away. Whiting’s I did that because I am that had Cassie Wulf in a ruffled sleeved, tail-feathered costume, traversing the stage in a modified grapevine, arms extended like wings. The birdlike in dance often feels comical, or at least light-hearted, but there was something shyly wounded to Wulf’s performance that added a sort of subtext.
Khambatta Dance Company’s Ashutosh is named after the interview subject that inspired it (he appears in a video prologue). It takes, I think, his talk on business and entrepreneurship-as-boredom-avoidance as a jumping-off point: Chris McCallister performs a rote series of movements with impeccable ease, and then the troupe, clad in charcoal gray slacks and vibrant monochromatic shirts, enters, haphazardly, but creating spontaneous collisions and connections. This works up to something that looks like a Bollywood backlot dancebreak (music is from Tai Rei, Mogwai, and Mo’ Horizons), with the dancers forming flat-handed poses, then closes again with McCallister and his movement assembly.
Kiyon Gaines, dancer for Pacific Northwest Ballet, choreographed a short but lively work titled Altogether…different, with Alexandra Dickson. Between a balletic middle, I recall her entering and exiting with arm up in a perhaps martial Japanese pose (music: Yumeji’s Theme); Kate Wallich’s frequency also had an aggressive, martial air, the dancers in severe gray getups from Mark Ferrin (music: Ryoji Ikeda)–Tobiasson admitted to a preference for “dynamic” dance, at the Q&A. Gabrielle Schutz’s Dissonance made less of an impression on me, despite the energy of its hiphop-infused style, because it felt more like an exercise than a work called into being on its own merits.