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Originally published Saturday, October 2, 2010 at 12:47 PM

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Review: 'World Headquarters' — at Velocity Dance Center — is kinetic storytelling for a dystopian future

Presented by the Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas in Seattle, the touring "World Headquarters" was inspired by the writings of the late African-American science-fiction novelist and Seattle resident, Octavia Butler.

Seattle Times arts critic

ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCES

'World Headquarters'

8 p.m. Saturday, Velocity Dance Center, 1621 12th Ave., Seattle; $10-$18 (800-838-3006).

A cataclysm wipes out nearly all of civilization. Scattered bands of human beings survive, roaming and setting up makeshift colonies ("hollows"), scavenging for food and the scattered remains of a perished culture, guarding what little they have from marauders. But what is the future of humanity — if there is one?

That's the basic outline for many a dystopian fable, including the new dance-theater piece "World Headquarters." Conceived and choreographed by Charles O. Anderson and his Philadelphia company, dance theater X (dtx), the piece was inspired by the writings of the late African-American science-fiction novelist and Seattle resident, Octavia Butler.

Presented by the Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas, the touring "World Headquarters" has its final performance at Velocity Dance Center tonight.

Anderson's vision is one of speculative anthropology, with poetic and philosophical overtones. To track the survival journey of a small group of young adults, led by an older sage (played by Anderson), the piece uses muscular, vivid choreography and a densely packed text created by Anderson and Troy Dwyer.

The script borrows from two popular, inspirational Butler novels ("Parable of the Sower" and "Parable of the Talents"), with quotations from big thinkers (a la Nietzsche) threaded in.

We are invited to ponder the nature of community and leadership, and whether God can exist after an apocalypse — or if change itself is "the only God."

The heavily cerebral talk gets didactic and sluggish. What lights up the piece is the dancing by Anderson, an excitingly explosive and fluent mover, and his attractive and agile company.

The choreography has an Afro-Caribbean thrust, especially in the group segments. Much of it is spacious, vigorous, emphatic, soaring dance, which emanates from the solar plexus and can take your breath away with its ferocity and athleticism.

The performers are up to the task, and most compelling, as they radiate anguish, confusion, bravery, longing, terror (to a score featuring Etta James, Steve Reich, Odetta, among others).

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com

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