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Originally published Saturday, January 16, 2010 at 9:29 AM

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Review: Whim W'Him's full-length debut is a breathtaking evening of dance

If you're not part of the sold-out crowd at any of Whim W'Him's performances this weekend, too bad — you're missing superb dance from some of the area's finest performers.

Seattle Times arts writer

PERFORMANCE REVIEW

'3Seasons'

Olivier Wevers/Whim W'Him, 8 p.m. tonight and Sunday at On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., Seattle; $12-$18 (206-217-9888 or www.ontheboards.org).

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I would say do anything you can — cash in your life insurance, pawn your children, whatever it takes — to grab a ticket to "3Seasons," the first full-length evening of work by Olivier Wevers and his new dance company, Whim W'Him.

But there's little point.

Its run sold out earlier this week and, judging from last night's attendance, the waiting-list chances for tonight and Sunday's performances look minimal.

Why such a turnout for a new and untested company?

Because Whim W'Him comprises nine superb, known-quantity dancers, most of them from Pacific Northwest Ballet or Spectrum Dance Theater. Then there's Wevers, who has set work successfully on PNB, Spectrum and other troupes in the last few years, giving this all-Wevers program an additional buzz.

"X stasis," the opener, sets a brisk pace and eclectic tone. Its five duets are full of sharp shapes fleetingly held, with fast, fluid undulations linking them. Wevers likes a bright, quick surface — but he also likes to thread something dark or taboo through it.

The piece's partnerings suggest his taste for the unexpected. "X stasis" starts off with Lucien Postlewaite and Chalnessa Eames in angular, airborne league together. But then he pairs Postlewaite with Jonathan Porretta — and Eames with a dressmaker's dummy.

There's comedy here, especially in Eames' oopsy-sultry response to her inanimate partner. But there's also, for dance lovers, a rare opportunity.

You're unlikely to see Porretta and Postlewaite in an extended duet together on the McCaw stage. There's just not that much call for male-male pairing at PNB. But these are two brilliantly matched dancers in build and strength, and it's a thrill to see them take each other on with such athletic verve. (The same goes for Kaori Nakamura and Karel Cruz, who provide "X stasis" with its knockout finish.)

"FRAGMENTS" — a five-part suite originally choreographed for Spectrum — is set to snippets of frothy Mozart ("The Magic Flute") and somber Mozart ("Requiem"). Spectrum dancers Kelly Ann Barton and Vincent Lopez bring a quicksilver precision to the piece's high energy and high camp. Barton, in one mile-a-minute passage, spices gripping body action with an array of vernacular gestures — head waggling, finger shakings, tongue lickings — that both parody and complicate her rapid-fire moves. Lopez, in a stunning solo set to a passage from "Requiem," becomes a whole orchestra of fine-tuned, impossibly contorted moves. In both cases, Wevers seems to be stretching his vocabulary to capture the disconnects in the musical excerpts.

"3Seasons," in its world premiere, aims for a symphonic scale, in contrast to these chamber pieces. Here, Eames, Lopez, Nakamura, Porretta and Postlewaite are joined by Ty Alexander Cheng, Jim Kent, Kylie Lewallen and Hannah Lagerway in a serio-comic contemplation of our disposable culture. Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" supplies the score — except for one movement where Seattle composer Byron Au Yong intervenes.

Things come and go quickly in this world: moods, household objects, configurations of dancers. There's almost too much variety of method and madness to grasp. But there is a strong sense of drama to the piece, especially in its more surreal touches — Wevers' homage to his fellow Belgian, René Magritte, perhaps?

Lopez again shows off his extraordinary control in a passage where he tries to traverse the stage but keeps being redirected by his fellow dancers. Kent enchants with his acrobatic prowess in a scene where he covets, in rapid succession, a pillow, a lamp, a computer keyboard, a gun.

There's a taut trio, full of mirror moves and sexual tension, for Nakamura, Porretta and Postlewaite; a pas de deux that lets Lewallen and Cheng cannily explore the magnetism of a near embrace; and a floor-bound tussle in which Postlewaite and the limber Lagerway, twining legs, spill Lagerway into an unexpected somersault.

Wevers is adept at group action, too, with a kind of "swivel chain" of dancers. Legs sprout out of it, arms arch up from it and action ricochets through it almost like a Rube Goldberg contraption. It's both comical and beautiful, like this whole piece: a study of evanescence and wasteful, wayward carelessness.

One final note: It's a treat to see the PNB dancers in this company on such an intimate stage. And you really do see them. Wevers and his lighting designer Michael Mazzola aren't afraid of bright, almost bleached-out light in certain passages, and they work it to potent dramatic effect.

Michael Upchurch: mupchurch@seattletimes.com

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