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West Wave Dance Festival

Amy Seiwert's im'ij-re

by Anne Berger

July 22, 2007 -- Project Artaud Theater, San Francisco, CA

Amy Seiwert’s contemporary ballet company, im’ij-re appeared at Project Artaud Theater July 22nd as part of the West Wave Dance Festival’s 4 x 4 series. This unique series focuses each of its four nights on the works of an individual choreographer. Sunday evening the entire program was dedicated to showcasing Seiwert’s range of careful and exciting choreography.

The program’s five pieces demonstrated a broad scope of movement from pulling, gripping partnering to flowing, open group work. Seiwert’s use of popular and urban dance mixed well with traditional and contemporary ballet steps. Although awkward partnering plagued a few couples in “The Melting,” the amazing skill of dancers like Charlie Neshyba-Hodges, Erin Yarbrough, and Vanessa Thiessen brought the sold-out house down.

The program opened with the world premiere of “Carefully Assembled Normality,” which explored the concepts of association, conformity and androgyny. The dancers’ identical costumes of earth-toned tanks and shorts by Cassandra Carpenter, along with their exact posing and repetitious sequences, exemplified these themes. This piece was technically impressive and even conveyed a hint of tenderness despite the fast paced choreography.

The second world premiere of the evening was “Double Consciousness.” Brilliantly danced by Neshyba-Hodges, this piece captured the anxiety and conflict of seeing oneself through the eyes of others. Set to a poetic work inspired by W.E.B. Dubois’ “The Souls of Black Folks” and narrated by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, “Double Consciousness” used popular, urban, and gymnastic dance elements to explore the concept of perspective.

Two concise pieces, “Push” and “Monopoly” rounded out the middle of the evening’s program. “Push” employed minimal lighting and ethereal music by John Zeretsky to support the fluid, dream-like choreography. Dancer Phaedra Jarrett beautifully characterized a woman cautiously balancing every step only to fall into the arms of a man, danced by Carlos Venturo.

“Monopoly,” which American Repertory Ballet originally premiered in 2002, was a frank look at gender roles and convention. This piece conveyed notions of conformity and alienation through use of archetypical costuming and familiar gestures. Three men in power suits who literally wheel and deal illustrated a “members only” attitude. Erin Yarbrough, donning both a power suit and a stereotypical red dress during the performance, portrayed a woman conflicted. In one moment, she tries to break free from the men’s grasp and assert her individuality, while in another instance she contorts and molds her body, attempting to fit in with the suits. Ultimately, the men reject her in both scenarios.

Closing the program is “The Melting,” which Smuin Ballet premiered in 2005. Eight dancers in simple blue biketards characterized the element of water. Guided by Evelyn Glennie’s Asian-influenced music, the piece cycled through the different phases of water. The dancers were a manifestation of ice, flowing water and mist - even breath. The solid choreography utilized complex turns, twists and lifts. Yet, at times, inelegant partnering among a few of the couples proved distracting and awkward.

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