NW New Works Festival closes with strong Mainstage show | Performance review
NW New Works Festival at Seattle's On the Boards wraps it up with a strong Mainstage Showcase.
Seattle Times arts writer
Performance Review |
At On the Boards' NW New Works Festival, offerings in the Studio Showcase will occasionally come out of left field and outshine much of what's on the Mainstage, as Kyle Loven's spooky blend of dance, puppetry and sound effects did the first weekend.
Not so this past weekend.
Haruko Nishimura, The Blank Department and, especially, aluminum siding & mattisonthemove (Donna B. Isobel and Matthew Smith, in need of a less unwieldy stage name) took OtB's big upstairs space and made pleasurably inventive use of it.
"Torn," by Isobel and Smith, was seen in excerpt at Velocity Dance Center's Next Fest NW last December. In this fuller staging, it's been beautifully elaborated.
It opens with an explosion of white paper raining down from the rafters, and goes on to explore paper as prop, paper as mask, paper as dance partner, paper as suffocating cloak, improvised shelter or welcome disguise.
Isobel and Smith are elegant, sinuous tumblers who hardly need props to make them look good. Still, those flying sheets, with all their sliding and spinning possibilities, brought out the best in them.
The set design — hanging columns and heaped mounds of 8 ½-by-11 paper — had some mystery and surprises to it, too. Michael Wall's score — ripping sounds phasing into a driving, raga-like guitar score with brass overlays — added a final felicitous touch, in conjunction with Bill McCoubrey's atmospheric lighting.
Haruko Nishimura, of Degenerate Art Ensemble, is better known to local audiences. In "Grandmother Mothra's Mercurial Tale," she performed with a live, electronically enhanced chamber ensemble under the baton of Joshua Kohl (he and Jherek Bischoff wrote the score). Finessing her usual blend of butoh-influenced movement, video trickery and good old-fashioned musical theater, she spun a variation on the tale of Red Riding Hood, suggesting the wolf is nothing more than Red Riding Hood's ravenous shadow-shelf. The near-perfect synching of sharp, twitchy dance with live musical cues and the fluid interplay between live performer and filmed performer (both Nishimura) were both impressive and fun.
On the music front, The Blank Department presented a "lecture" that was actually a suite of pop songs on cosmic themes: the Big Bang, evolution and, as lead singer Jed Dunkerley gamely crooned, "Things we know that we know and things we don't yet know that just might be unknowable." Basil Harris, in uptight professor mode, introduced the "talk" and got amusingly flustered when Sara Edwards and David Nixon stripped down to illustrate at least one of the ways in which life came to Earth.
Shannon Stewart's "A Better Container" got off to a great start with some go-go dance moves in striking costumes (wigs that were even wiggier than you first thought) accompanied by a curious splintering of neo-1960s pop vocals (by Sam Mickens). But the off-kilter fun was soon dropped for something more plodding and fragmented.
In the Studio, a few of the acts had spark, even if their pieces didn't pan out. Danielle Villegas began with a pitch-perfect tale of how, before pubescence, she all but convinced herself she was a boy. Crisis came when her "nipples grew beyond the point of no return." Villegas then launched into the evils of homophobia, alas, as if anyone attending experimental theater in Seattle stood in need of such a lesson.
FINGER, a bizarrely shrill harmonizing duo, sang some possibly filthy tunes, with half the words unintelligible. Works by choreographer Lori Hamer, from Victoria, B.C., and local troupe Quark Contemporary Dance Theatre completed the program.
Michael Upchurch: firstname.lastname@example.org
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