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Originally published December 3, 2011 at 12:23 PM | Page modified December 3, 2011 at 1:09 PM

Dance review

zoe | juniper: visual wizardry, brilliant dance

Seattle's zoe | juniper blends visual wizardry with slippery, angular dance in "A Crack in Everything" at Seattle's On the Boards through Sunday, Dec. 4.

Seattle Times arts writer

Dance review

zoe | juniper: "A Crack in Everything"

8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., Seattle; $20 (206-217-9888 or www.ontheboards.org). Includes nudity and strobe-light effects.
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How do you depict nonlinear time within a linear time-frame?

That's one question choreographer Zoe Scofield and visual artist Juniper Shuey asked themselves as they put together "A Crack in Everything" their dance piece at On the Boards. that runs through Sunday.

Their answer may be the most impressive dance/sound/visual spectacle to come from a Seattle creative troupe this year.

The show is beautiful, fragmented, mysterious, abstract. Yet it cuts to the essence of how we push forward in life while always looking back. Thanks to its technical ingenuity, it also deals quite literally with the difficulty of distinguishing real presences from mere projections. And it's danced so brilliantly by its five performers that it's fun to watch just for its bodies in motion.

"A Crack in Everything" is the latest production of zoe | juniper (as Scofield and her husband call their troupe) and has been seen in bits and pieces in Seattle over the past couple of years. It debuted in its full-length version (70 minutes) at Massachusetts' prestigious Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in July, and six months later Seattle is getting a chance to see it with all its bells and whistles.

It bursts into being with a blaze of light and the sight of two dancers half-covered in gold-leaf, moving in tight, athletic tandem behind a scrim. Suddenly, without missing a step, the physical dancers transform into projected images of the same dancers.

Moments later, the stage darkens and other figures appear in front of and behind the scrim. But are they really there? Some who seem present in the flesh turn out to be projected illusions, magically created by Shuey and lighting designer Robert Aguilar. Others "stay" real.

With viewers knocked pleasurably off-balance by this wizardry, the key image of "A Crack in Everything" is introduced. A female dancer, in constant motion, travels the stage tethered by a bright red string that she clenches in her teeth, held taut by an offstage presence.

The string, which recurs throughout the show, is an extraordinarily potent and versatile image. It could be an artery, feeding the dancer's life or letting it bleed away. It could be a leash that the performer has no choice but to wear. Whatever it is, there's a real sense that, if the dancer were to open her mouth and let it go, something might snap into oblivion.

As the action unfolds in a collagelike way, the complexity of the staging reveals itself. The front scrim is really two different layers of material, one transparent and one reflective, creating continuous ambiguities as to what we're seeing. Erik Andor's metallic masks/headdresses and tunic-like costumes effectively disguise the female dancers, making them seem like stylized figures in an elaborate rite.

In each dance passage, Scofield's ballet background shows as conspicuously as her slippery, angular choreographic idiosyncrasies. Her New York-based dancers — Christiana Axelsen, Diana Deaver, Anna Schon and the astonishing, long-limbed Raja Kelly — gamely handle any challenge she gives them. Kelly, as the sole male, stands out, especially in a passage where he futilely attempts to "herd" the oblivious, purposeful females. But there are no weak links here.

Scofield, in a post-show Q&A, described "A Crack in Everything" (she took the title from a Czech poem before she ever heard the Leonard Cohen tune with the same line) as an "origami of memory or origami of time."

That's just one way of interpreting this bold, accomplished piece.

Michael Upchurch: mupchurch@seattletimes.com

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