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Originally published March 26, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 26, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Dance review

Spectrum Dance Theater: From softness to destruction

In three very different pieces presented at the Moore Theatre this weekend, the hard-working dancers of Seattle's Spectrum Dance Theater...

Special to The Seattle Times

In three very different pieces presented at the Moore Theatre this weekend, the hard-working dancers of Seattle's Spectrum Dance Theater brought to life a harrowing world where there is no safety or rest.

In Donald Byrd's choreography, dancers seemed to want to devour and destroy each other. With changes in speed and direction, they clung to and leapt at their partners, as if survival meant throwing the other off balance. Rare moments of yielding and tenderness took on a contrasting power that made you want to weep.

The program's one premiere, "Nevermind," set to the music of Nirvana, explores images of Kurt Cobain's life, drug addiction, sexual confusion, fame and suicide. David Alewine and Allison Keppel, in Christine Joly's spot-on grunge-rock costumes, dance fraught exchanges of need and rejection.

Moments of ease and consummation are brief flashes only after a finger-pointing gesture that resembles shooting into a vein. The need for the drug and love become interchangeable.

Part of what makes Byrd a riveting choreographer is that he is never afraid to go too far. Even his use of elements that are jarring in this piece (dancers retching upstage, a brief lip-synching sequence, one gunshot too many) become, finally, new forms of abstracted elements, serving his choreography, and, in turn, the story.

In the 2003 "Short Dances/Little Stories," dancers brutally interact with obscenity-laden rap lyrics, while graffiti artists paint on a scrolling back wall, creating a vivid evocation of a harsh urban world.

Byrd's 1995 "I've Got The Wilis" retells the story of the 1841 "Giselle" in which the ghosts of betrayed virgins haunt the woods and revenge themselves on men. Natalie Dahlstrom, Hannah Lagerway and Keppel, wearing costumer Mark Zappone's red snaky leotards and full, billowing white skirts, resemble predatory insects, lowering their skirts over the bare-chested Peter de Grasse.

When Lara Seefeldt, as Giselle, realizes she has joined the frenzy and been the one to administer the death thrust, she cradles de Grasse in one of those throat-catching moments of unexpected tenderness, hard-earned and brief.

Mary Murfin Bayley: marybayley@aol.com

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