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Originally published October 21, 2011 at 9:06 AM | Page modified October 21, 2011 at 9:25 PM

Dance review

The Cabiri's 'Winternacht': spooky chills

Seattle aerial-and-dance troupe the Cabiri takes on the coming season's chill and darkness with "Winternacht."

Seattle Times arts writer

ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCES

'Winternacht'

Presented by The Cabiri, 7:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday and Oct. 28-31, Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, 4408 Delridge Way S.W., Seattle; recommended for ages 14 and older; $35-$100, including dessert (800-838-3006 or www.brownpapertickets.com).
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PERFORMANCE REVIEW | "The time has come for us to revel in that which we cannot quite face."

So says Steffon Moody, the affably ghoulish host of the Cabiri's new production, "Winternacht."

What he's referring to is the chilling approach of winter. As for his idea of revelry, it has more to do with ravishment and murder than run-of-the-mill party-going.

"Winternacht" is the latest installment in "The Ghost Game," the Cabiri's annual spectacular ushering in the season of cold and darkness. It draws on myths from Russia, Japan, Tibet and other cultures, bringing them to life with mime, acrobatic dance and aerial turns on the rings, trapeze and more.

Moody is this year's "Monster of Ceremonies," and in his blue-satin suit and ghost-white pompadour, he's a bit like an unctuous, sarcastic Elvis taking a zombie turn. But as much fun as he is, he isn't the main attraction.

The limelight, rightly, is on the aerialists and dancers. The opening number gets things off to a macabre start with the tale of Marzanna, Slavic goddess of winter and death (Charly McCreary in slinky, feather-adorned black), doing her worst to summer god Dazbog (John Murphy, artistic director of the Cabiri). Tough as he is, he's no match for her.

Other highlights include a visceral take on Wendigo, a cannibal spirit of Algonquin folklore. As portrayed by a gleefully feral Marissa Smith doing acrobatics on the high bar, this hungry demon is truly frightful.

"Morozco," a Russian tale, pits a greedy stepdaughter (April McMorris) against the very personification of winter (Murphy). Thanks to Getchen Frederich's stunning costume (we're talking special effects), Murphy has a spooky grandeur, while McMorris, as his victim, brings some desperate abandon to her aerial routine on a silk sling. McMorris is a standout, too, in the evening's closer, "Telepinu," where she plays a Hittite solar god engaged in a life-or-death battle with a hunky sea-deity (Danny Boulet) involving springy attacks, back-flips and tumbles.

Not all of the stories are clear in their presentation, and in some cases elaborate staging gets in the way of performance. "Yeti," a tale from the Himalayas, is especially frustrating. Seen in silhouette projected onto a scrim, Boulet and Lauren Kettner (as the abominable snowman and his object of desire) are clearly engaged in some brutal, intricate rough-and-tumble. But poor sightlines mean you miss half the action unless you're sitting dead center. I'd say scrap the scrim, backlight their tussle and get your silhouettes that way.

At its best, though, "Winternacht" lures you successfully into the realm of folkloric nightmare. The costumes (Nicole Stalder is credited along with Frederich) and the masks (from Boulet's sideline, Misfit Leather) richly enhance the stage-effects.

If winter-triggered nightmare isn't enough of a draw, there's also dessert served with each show — from Sugar Rush this weekend, and Dilettante the next.

Michael Upchurch: mupchurch@seattletimes.com

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