NW New Works: wildly uneven but with glorious highlights
Seattle's Catherine Cabeen, Kate Wallich and Sara Edwards deliver some glorious highlights in On the Boards' wildly uneven 2012 NW New Works Festival, running June 8-17, 2012.
Seattle Times arts writer
2012 NW New Works FestivalVarying times through Sunday, On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., Seattle; $14 for one showcase, $20 for two (206-217-9888 or www.ontheboards.org).
It's in the nature of experiments to deliver uneven results.
The first weekend of On the Boards' experimental showcase, the 2012 NW New Works Festival, was wildly uneven. But its best moments — provided by choreographers Catherine Cabeen and Kate Wallich and by singer-chorale leader Sara Edwards — were knockouts.
Cabeen's "Ready, Aim ... " started out as a dreamy intersection between Cabeen and a huge expanse of silvery cellophane. With her usual command, Cabeen kept you off-balance, making you wonder whether there might be more than one person rattling around under the gleaming material.
Then, emerging from her crackling cocoon, she abruptly turned to the audience and asked, "I don't know — is this working?"
What followed was a hilarious monologue on dancers' body-image insecurities and what Cabeen called the "meaningless-crotch-in-contemporary-dance" issue (demonstrated as she moved continually in time with her own caustic commentary). Cabeen is slated to do a piece called "Fire!" next season at OtB. If this is an excerpt from it, I can't wait to see the whole thing.
Kate Wallich & Crew's "One Plus" opened with its five dancers in frozen silhouette against a video backdrop. Indicative of how distinctive this young choreographer's style is that, even when standing still, the five performers looked unmistakably like Wallich dancers.
Gradually they shaded into movement, flexing and swiveling their arms with their fists clenched, as if to rope the air with invisible slow-motion lassos. Undulations shifted into sharply marked rhythms. Then an individual dancer (the "one," presumably, of the title) would separate out to do a solo, until joined by the others (the "plus"). It's glorious the way Wallich so clearly thinks with movement, capturing states of mind and rhythms of being.
A third highlight was "The Public Road," a cappella settings of verse by Walt Whitman, sung by Sara Edwards & the People's Grand Opera. With help from Kirk Anderson and John Osebold (of "Awesome") and Sari Breznau and Erin Jorgensen (of The French Project), plus nine other singers, Edwards transformed imagery both humble and cosmic from "Leaves of Grass" into minimalist rounds and harmonies that couldn't have been more beautiful.
But ... there was a lot of frustration to deal with before hitting these high points. Dancer-choreographers Mike Pham and Corrie Befort lit their performances in ways that perversely obscured their action. Pham was all but invisible. But Befort's surreal "Pinto" intermittently revealed fine hypnotic action from her (she's an entrancing dancer), plus a "performance" by an uninhabited overcoat that, rather than puppetry magic, was an astonishing turn by dancer Trez McBean.
Two disappointing acts came from Portland: Tahni Holt, indulging in antics with amplified cardboard boxes, and Hand2Mouth, combining atomized storytelling with mediocre rock tunes. Danny Herter, recasting the Epic of Gilgamesh and several books from the Old Testament as an absurdist radio show, got some laughs. But the piece felt pretty juvenile.
The festival continues next weekend with appearances by the long-absent Maureen Whiting (dancing with Ezra Dickinson), boylesque star Waxie Moon (doing a striptease to Ravel's "Bolero") and seven other acts.
Michael Upchurch: firstname.lastname@example.org