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Originally published Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at 7:03 PM

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Seattle's BOOST dance-festival works explore anxiety, entrapment, escape

Seattle's BOOST dance festival continues March 26-27, 2011, showcasing emerging dance talents such as Christin Lusk, Marlo Martin and Daniel Wilkins.

Seattle Times arts writer

Additional performances

BOOST dance festival

8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, The Erickson Theater Off Broadway, 1524 Harvard Ave., Seattle; $15 (800-838-3006 or www.brownpapertickets.com).

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DANCE REVIEW |

Just when you think you have a handle on the dance scene in Seattle, something new looms into view.

The BOOST dance festival, now in its second year, is one of those new things. Produced by choreographer Marlo Martin, it nicely showcases emerging choreographic and dance talents. As with any variety lineup, some entries are stronger than others. But the best of the 2011 roster makes you want to seek out more work by its artists.

Christin Lusk's tight, tough "Static" is a case in point. It opens with five female dancers in raccoon-eye makeup and in rigid formation. They're bathed in a light patterned like TV-screen static that fills the wall behind them. In fact, they seem almost frozen by it — until, abruptly, they start twitching and dropping out of it.

By the end of the dance, they've used every move they can — precarious balances, violent falls, jujitsu-strong kicks, slow backward crawls — to escape the video environment (devised by Lusk and Aaron Grady-Brown) imposed on them.

A similar sense of entrapment, anxiety and escape pervades Martin's "Ask different questions," although the piece isn't as shapely as Lusk's. Still, it has some potent moments, especially when the towering Jill Leversee is encircled by nine other dancers who don't have her best interests at heart.

Daniel Wilkins of DASSdance has a promising entry in "Innovation of Affection," a work in progress. "Innovation" was supposed to feature "larger-than-life smartphones" broadcasting updates on the dancer relationships being explored, but technical hitches prevented the special effect from being ready for the show.

Still, some of the dancers, notably Julian Young and Isaiah Sumler (in duets with Ahnaleza Vandermay and Christina Cooley, respectively) were as good as any special effect, combining smooth gymnastic moves with alternately aggressive and tender dance.

A passage for four dancers demanded equal strength and daring, and didn't quite get it. But with more polishing and with those gigantic smartphones in place, this could be a knockout.

Alana O Rogers' "Skinned Figs" was a softer-edged, more meandering work. But it has a great opening duet by Sylvain Boulet and Natascha Greenwalt-Murphy, in which he snuggles her a little too constrictively. Trying to make her escape, she half-flies out of his arms — his tight hold on her, ironically, giving just the support she needs.

"Static," "Figs," "Ask" and "Innovation" all repeat this weekend. But the best item on Friday's program, Kate Wallich's "A Wood Frame," does not, alas.

Symmetrically structured, as the title suggests, it opens with a line of dancers — Lavinia Vago, Wallich herself, Matthew Drews — enacting different degrees of agitation. Vago is the extremist, Wallich covers the middle ground, while all that Drews seems to do at first is flex his muscles ... but with a tension and threat that are palpable.

When the trio becomes a quintet, the action grows electrifingly unified, whether the dancers are doing floor-dives, high-speed rolls, sudden sit-ups or crazy scrambles. It's as though they're in the grip of a tight, agitated force field that won't let them go — until they revert to the original trio, in a state of quiet, realigned transformation.

Anxiety did seem to be the theme of the festival's best work. But when the work is of Lusk's and Wallich's caliber, it's worth the angst.

Michael Upchurch: mupchurch@seattletimes.com

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