Giving It Away With Spectrum’s Miraculous Mandarin in the ID
Have you ever been tempted to take the leap into contemporary dance, but thought at the last moment, Wait, this costs money? Then do we have six free performances for you, featuring one of the Pacific Northwest’s most viscerally exciting and intellectually daring dance troupes.
Spectrum Dance Theater is taking The Miraculous Mandarin, composer Bela Bartok’s one-act ballet about sex and the Mandarin, to Hing Hay Park (“the park for pleasurable gatherings”) in Chinatown. That’s two blocks east of the International District light rail station, if you prefer to arrive in style.
All shows begin at 8 p.m., over two weekends: May 17-19 and May 24-26. While the show is free, you probably want to get a ticket in advance, to reserve your seat. Byrd and Spectrum are recreating on the site the setting of Bartok’s Mandarin, a seedy room in a red-light district in which a girl dances in a window, to entice passersby inside.
The audience will watch the proceedings inside the historic Bush Hotel from Hing Hay Park, as if they (or you, if you get your ticket in time) are unwilling to pay to go inside, which, since the show is free, is technically true. The main thing is, seating will be limited. And actually, you don’t want to go inside because that’s when the drug addicts in the story will try to roll you.
Bartok’s oft-banned version, grotesquing the European’s worst nightmare (a depraved and likely inscrutable Chinese man coming on to a white woman), gets a twist in Byrd’s telling, where the Mandarin is black. I wouldn’t put it past provocateur Byrd to be making a comment on minority tensions between blacks and Asians, but it could just as well be a gesture of outsiderly solidarity. Byrd does not shy away from violence and adult sexual themes, either, so be warned–when they call it “theatrical pulp fiction,” that’s not just marketing copy.
PS: There’s also a “Miraculous Mandarin: Behind the scenes historic tour” on Saturday, May 19, at 6 p.m. Meet up at the Wing Luke Museum/Freeman Hotel at 710 South King Street. Tickets are $12.95, and again, there’s limited capacity, so register at Spectrum in advance.
Spectrum Dance Theater is partnering with the Wing Luke Museum to give audience members a chance to tour the Freeman Hotel in the West Kong Yick Building, a historic tenement in the neighborhood, in the context of The Miraculous Mandarin. This building was a refuge and home for many transient and marginal communities in Seattle. Elements of the neighborhood history are implied in the story of The Miraculous Mandarin, and Spectrum is proud to use this opportunity to tell the stories of the area.