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Originally published Friday, October 11, 2013 at 11:22 AM

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UW Chamber Dance: vibrant Tharp, passionate ‘Possession’

A review of the 2013 program of the Chamber Dance Company, based at the University of Washington. Through Oct. 13.

Seattle Times arts writer


UW Chamber Dance

7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, Meany Hall, University of Washington, Seattle; $10-$22 (206-543-4880 or

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If the recent, wonderful “Air Twyla” repertory at Pacific Northwest Ballet whetted your appetite for Twyla Tharp, hurry on over to Meany Hall this weekend. Chamber Dance Company, in its annual concert, is presenting Tharp’s 1970 dance-without-music “The Fugue.” Previously performed by CDC in 2008, “The Fugue” presents three dancers on a bare stage, stomping and slapping and counting, crafting both a dance and a conversation from the sounds of their feet and their breath. Megan Brunsvold, Natalie Desch and Pablo Piantino found jittery music in this fiendishly difficult (and exhausting) work’s stops and starts; each of “The Fugue’s” 20 sections felt like jazz poetry.

The goal of the CDC, founded by Hannah C. Wiley (still its artistic director) in 1990 at the University of Washington, is to present, record and archive dance works of historical and artistic significance. Performing only one repertory per year, the company presents both a wealth of beautiful dancing and a graceful lesson in dance history.

More than 80 years of dance were represented in this year’s edition, which explores themes of gender roles in choreography. Doris Humphrey’s 1928 “Air for the G String,” set to Bach, featured five women in long crimson robes that fell onto the floor and merged with it, flowing like water around the dancers’ delicate, precise movements. In Humphrey’s 1930 work “The Shakers,” inspired by the 18th-century religious sect whose members danced and spoke in tongues, dancers writhed and whirled in a frenzy, shaking their hands as if flicking something evil away. Men and women were separated; side by side but never touching, in accordance with the Shaker belief in purity.

While the roles in “The Fugue” are gender-neutral (it’s performed throughout the CDC run by two alternating casts; one with two women and a man, the other with two men and a woman), the evening’s other two works, both contemporary, dealt with relationships between couples. Israeli choreographer Zvi Gotheiner’s 1998 “Brazilian Duets” presents four pas de deux — two for a man/woman pair, one for two men, and one for two women. All explore — playfully, athletically, romantically, with folk-dance flavored elements — the idea of dancing as two; with Desch and Piantino particularly strong as the final and most lyrical couple.

Doug Varone’s 1994 work “Possession” concluded the evening, set to an insistently passionate Philip Glass score and danced by two men and two women, switching partnering throughout. Though its connection to the A.S. Byatt novel of the same title wasn’t entirely clear to this viewer, the dance has a lovely fury to it; the sped-up movements suggesting the stirring of emotions in a pot perhaps too small.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

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