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Originally published Friday, November 9, 2012 at 5:30 AM

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Agami/Ate9's 'Sally meets Stu' returns

Danielle Agami's new Seattle-based dance company, Ate9, brings back "Sally meets Stu," a sly mix of movement and text, at the Century Ballroom, Nov. 9, 2012.

Seattle Times arts writer

ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCES

'Sally meets Stu'

7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Friday, Century Ballroom, 915 E. Pine St., Seattle; $15-$20 (206-325-8773 or www.velocitydancecenter.org).
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Earlier this year, Danielle Agami, a dancer-choreographer formerly with Batsheva Dance Company ("Israel's premiere contemporary dance troupe," says The New York Times), relocated to Seattle, where she founded a new dance troupe, Ate9, and premiered her first evening-length work, "Sally meets Stu," at the Century Ballroom in late August.

If you missed the sold-out show then, you have a second chance to see it this weekend.

Built around a sly, shifting text by Nadav Heyman, "Sally meets Stu" follows five different potential trajectories in the same lifelong relationship that, every time, begins with the words "Sally meets Stu. Sally likes Stu."

The movement accompanying this shape-shifting text encompasses everything from fluid multidirectional passagework to a tangy syncopated production number set to the Middle Eastern beats of Setrak Sarkissian (so seductive, it's surprising half the audience doesn't get up and join the dancers on the Century Ballroom floor). Female dancers take desperate flying leaps into astonishingly sturdy masculine arms. Ordinary kitchen activities are complemented by slow explorative acrobatics going on under the counter.

Like Spectrum's Donald Byrd, Agami mixes text and movement in intuitive combustible ways. In Heyman, she has a spellbinding, sphinxlike narrator who delivers his text with a cool offhand languor, whether the lovers he describes are edging toward sexual ecstasy, domestic violence or the unexpected turns of old age (Heyman may be in his early 20s, but he likes to take the long perspective).

Agami's musical instincts are mostly on the mark, although, as a newcomer to the U.S., she seems unaware of just how shopworn Barber's Adagio for Strings is in a dance setting. Amiya Brown's lighting is as varied as the dance, sophisticated when it needs to be, or as simple as a shaky flashlight seeking out performers in the dark.

As for the dancers, they include some of the best of the new Seattle generation — Kate Wallich, Matt Drews, Erica Badgeley — along with cherry-picked performers Agami has met as she's taught the repertory of Batsheva across the U.S.

"Sally meets Stu" may be deliberately fragmented in its dance components. But with Heyman's eccentrically splintering narrative to hold it together, it has considerable impact.

Michael Upchurch: mupchurch@seattletimes.com

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