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Originally published Friday, October 22, 2010 at 2:55 PM

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'Faith' best part of Seattle choreographer Pat Graney's 'Faith Triptych'

"Faith" remains the draw in Seattle choreographer Pat Graney's "Faith Triptych."

Seattle Times arts writer

Additional performances

'Faith Triptych'

Pat Graney's "Faith," "Sleep" and "Tattoo," 7:30 p.m. through Sunday, On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., Seattle; $20 (206-217-9888 or www.ontheboards.org).

Dance review |

"Faith" is a hard act to follow. And for Pat Graney's "Faith Triptych," that's a bit of a problem.

Graney's "Triptych" consists of three works the Seattle choreographer sees as belonging together: "Faith" (1991), "Sleep" (1995) and "Tattoo" (2000). On the Boards' production is a rare chance to see all three in a single four-hour sitting.

"Faith," by far the strongest piece, comes first.

Set for seven female dancers, it's an hourlong immersion in the feminine psyche. Its movement is velvet-edged, unhurried, mesmerizing — closer to slow-motion gymnastics than dance.

Each of its five sections highlights a different aspect of body consciousness or self-consciousness. The opening, with its religious tableaux continually dissolving and reassembling, reveals a fluid connectivity and trust between the dancers.

In a "kickball" sequence, Graney creates buoyant, elastic geometries of movement, with big red balls "performing" as much as the dancers. Playground innocence gives way to high-heeled sexual experiment and insecurity (the latter played with acute, discomforting comedy by Amii LeGendre).

The final scene, performed in the nude, imagines flesh as a shifting landscape. The movement, timed to Rachel Warwick's layered vocals, is honey-slow. The lighting by Meg Fox (recreated by Ben Geffen) sculpts the archipelago of bodies beautifully. "Faith," with its measured pace and hypnotic musical score, pulls you into a dream dimension.

In "Sleep," female rites of passage are again the focus, spelled out, alas, in an over-literal manner with birthday rituals, baton-twirling, wedding paraphernalia and more. Murky slide-projections of family photos don't help. The music, from 10 different sources, is so choppy it fails to establish an involving mood or atmosphere. And the dance movement — apart from a parody of tap or Irish step — is almost nonexistent. Instead, there's an awful lot of slow, processional walking.

Still, some moments work — especially when LeGendre, in black bra and panties, desperately uses electrical tape to strap her body into the shape she wants it to be.

In its lighting and its dance component, "Tattoo" reverts more to "Faith" territory. But rather than five long sequences punctuated by blackouts, it offers a series of vignettes. Tap-dance again figures prominently, along with dips, kicks, hand signals and hip swivels in tight unison. There's some striking stage comedy, too including LeGendre and KT Niehoff doing an outlandish boot-lacing duet and Alison Cockrill indulging in some amplified potato-chip eating.

But while plenty of ideas are in play, they fail to achieve much momentum.

"Faith" remains the draw here.

Michael Upchurch: mupchurch@seattletimes.com

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