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Originally published Saturday, December 4, 2010 at 10:18 AM

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Review: Velocity Dance Center's 'Next Fest NW' is imagination set in motion

Seattle's Velocity Dance Center turns the spotlight on the local dance scene in "Next Fest NW."

Seattle Times arts writer

ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCES

'Next Fest NW'

8 p.m. nightly through Sunday, Velocity Founders Theater, 1621 12th Ave., Seattle; $10-$18. Next Dance Cinema is 7 p.m. Monday, Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., Seattle; $6-$9. (Information: 206-325-8773 or www.velocitydancecenter.org; tickets: 800-838-3006 or www.brownpapertickets.com.)

Velocity Dance Center's Next Fest NW offers dance lovers a twofold opportunity.

It gives you sneak peeks of works-in-progress by choreographers you already know. And it helps put performers on your radar that you may have missed.

One of the four pieces on this weekend's program does both.

Salt Horse, led by Beth Graczyk and Corrie Befort, is a familiar and surreal affair, often employing unlikely props and costumes. But in "Serpentinite," an excerpt from the forthcoming "Titan Arum," Graczyk and Befort hone their imaginative world down to pure motion. Six dancers continually cross space at wildly varied speeds, the moves of each like a dialect that isn't intelligible to the others. Sometimes they seem not so much to move as to be moved by twitching and sometimes terrifying unseen forces.

Emerging from this sometimes frenzied, sometimes spooky action, Alia Swersky simply dazzles. She's a long-limbed dream of a dancer who plays her body as though it were a keyboard. The rippling way she articulates her limbs, carving space as she goes, is pure sculpture in motion.

Kristin Hapke also makes a big impression. In her piece "enter here," performed with Sruti Desai and Lila Hurwitz, she'll push at one moment as if through a dense binding fluid, then bring a soft-edged dart-and-tease to her weightless motion. Hapke describes "enter here" as "an internal mind puzzle," and that seems about right. Near blackouts between scenes create a rhythm that lends it momentum.

Both "enter here" and "Serpentinite" feature live electronic scores, by Carl Farrow and Angelina Baldoz respectively, which make these inward-gazing abstract brands of dance more accessible.

In "Paper Chase," a pair of performers who go by Aluminum Siding and mattisonthemove derive potent dance visuals from a very simple prop. Paper — stacks and stacks of it. With acrobatic élan, Donna B. Isobel and Matt Smith (their real names) transform the scattered reams into levitating dance partners. "Paper Chase" is excerpted from a longer work, "Torn." When do we get to see it all?

The evening's closer, "the Decline" by Ellie Sandstrom, felt a little diffuse by comparison. It's set on eight dancers and moves from busy group action, with fleeting partnerings, to a frenetic solo for Sandstrom while her fellow performers lie dormant. More effortful than inevitable in feel, it didn't quite click.

Intermission brought entertainment in the lobby, served up by Portland's Eliza Larson partnering with Emily German. This fun snippet of a piece, titled "She said she said," played out like a game of rock-paper-scissors adapted to the whole human body.

Note: The sightlines at Velocity aren't the greatest and some floorbound passages in several dances are completely lost to audience view.

On the plus side, Velocity's sound system is floor-vibratingly fantastic.

If live performance just isn't enough for you, you can also catch "Next Dance Cinema," featuring work by Kathryn Padberg (dancers Aiko Kinoshita and Aaron Swartzman making dreamy use of a series of white empty rooms), Alice Gosti (performing a trio with a whirling dress and some dancing trousers), and Mandy Greer, Haruko Nishimura and Ian Lucero teaming together for butoh-flavored purposes in "The Silvering Path." Seven other films are on the program too.

Michael Upchurch: mupchurch@seattletimes.com

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