Velocity’s SCUBA Brings Flour, Forks, and Transfiguration
“Like a Sun That Pours Forth Light But Never Warmth” is the brightly ominous title of Allie Hankins‘s dance at SCUBA (through May 6 at Velocity Dance Center; tickets), and she delivers strange goods as promised.
Her solo performance is at once theatrical, light playing on surfaces, and introspective, with unseen voids. With the iconic Nijinsky, Hankins begins a choreographic correspondence, borrowing his roles to write back with.
The work opens with Hankins bolting from the audience aisle upstage to a doorway into which she vanishes, and the lights go out. It’s just long enough for you to notice that she’s topless, in flesh-colored tights. Next she appears kneeling with her back to the audience, on a long red curtain-carpet. She arches backwards.
Cut again to her stage left, dappling shoulders with gold, her face a mask. Once more she exits, dashes back into the space. To Ravel’s “Bolero,” she repeats a formally precise set of slicing movements, before simply turning to jump (Nijinsky-like, one imagines) on the drum beats, a feat that becomes climactic.
All of this is mesmerizing, of a part with Hankins’s ongoing interest with what she calls the “betrayals” of the body. Dancing topless exposes one of those betrayals, I suspect. Though she’s slicked back her hair, and has the musculature for jumps with hang-time, Hankins doesn’t strap down her breasts. Women at intermission talk about the impact of it–you know, it’s just not done. They get in the way, distract. It’s not everyday you see someone embody an argument, and Hankins does, though it’s made more powerful by the suspicion that this is equally a challenge to herself.
Though SCUBA is about a cross-country network of dance presenters helping emerging choreographers tour and find new audiences for their work, this time around the ferment and eclecticism of Seattle’s dance scene means that there are two Seattle entries of the three on the bill. Alice Gosti’s Spaghetti Co. has been fascinating The SunBreak since 2010. Previously, Gosti problematized the dinner table.
In “I always wanted to give you a pink elephant,” it’s the living room that becomes a battlefield. During intermission, the dancers (Chantael Duke, Anh Nguyen, Devin McDermott, Any Ross, Markeith Wiley) came out to sit down on the sofa and get sifted with flour, but the piece opens with just McDermott and Gosti, in slips and half-light, dancing, grappling, hugging, collapsing, while the rest of the troupe sings TLC’s “Creep” (about ignored infidelity) a capella from beneath the risers the audience sits upon.
When the song ends, they emerge, crawling out to the “living room” and begin a twitchy, floury dance that turns the floor slippery, occasionally assembling into family portraits on the sofa. There’s jockeying for position, Nguyen tries to leave, but is hauled back, hands that might seem innocently resting on her shoulders now holding her in place. Gosti picks again and again at something in her mouth, like a stray hair. The group collapses inward. Entropy takes their careful poses, again and again. The floury air makes a few people cough.
There’s not really somewhere “to go” with this, so it peters out eventually, but let’s face it, family dynamics never resolve, not really–this is what Gosti captures with her poses that can’t be held, and reconfigurations. Spaghetti Co., of the local troupes I’ve seen, I rate most likely to be a cult in disguise–a good thing, in this instance, because the dynamics between all the members are so vividly realized. You believe in this fractious unit before you.
From Philadelphia came Gabrielle Revlock and her “A Fork and Stick Thing.” Curiously, the note on Velocity’s site that the work was inspired “by watching birds respond to hip hop music” was not reprinted in the program, which seems an odd omission.
It’s a sui generis piece no matter how you take it; the dance movements are performed to an assembled spoken-word soundtrack (Jacob Mitas and Justin Moynihan) that modulates from word-salad to occasional lines of lucidity. Revlock and her colleague Kristel Baldoz, dressed in raw silk from JRochelle designs, spend most of their time on the floor, shooting out their arm-wings on the word “time,” and once or twice hopping on each other’s back.
The idiosyncrasy of the movement (slow backward somersaults that might break right or left, the impression of ruffling feathers) keeps you entranced, even as you try to decipher the sliced-up lines. Again, it is hard to say where this should lead, or how it should end. Presumably birds keep right on being birds even after the hip hop wanders off.