Seattle Dance Project 2
24 January 2009
by Dean Speer
I find myself having to take a different position than my learned critic colleagues on their assessments of the opening piece by Maureen Whiting on Seattle Dance Project’s “p2" program. In trying to analyze, as in one case, why they felt it was a “dud,” I have to ask myself “Was it because she was using Chopin études and the result was not what they might have expected?”
Whiting actually did something rather smart – she “countered” the music. Too often, inexperienced choreographers (or those who don’t know better) will be tempted to mimic the music rather than use it as a springboard for their choreography or to complement it. That’s not to say you shouldn’t pay attention to nicities like rhythm and meter but the best dance makers will take music, fuse it with their choreography and create a hybrid thing – the art.
A viewer might disagree with exactly how Whiting interpreted the music but her interpretation is nevertheless legitimate. My only fuss would be to edit out unnecessary gestures, such as when one dancer stuck out his tongue and too much finger pointing. (Everyone should know, in the interest of full disclosure, that finger pointing in dance is one of my pet peeves. I really dislike it and find it way too banal.)
Edwaard Liang’s “Flight of Angels” echos Martha Graham’s sentiment that dancers are Acrobats of God and even titled one of her best known works, “Diversion of Angels.” This duet, with Alexandra Dickson and Kory Perigo in the cast that I saw, touched upon the heavenly and romantic, based a score by John Tavener. While not performed en pointe, it could easily have and perhaps, should have been. The movement was timeless and the work an overall just-right length.
Dance maker Heidi Vierthaler has been working in Europe, and this influence shows in her “Surfacing.” This said, her movement motifs overall were interesting. I particularly enjoyed how she had the dancers use their torsos. Betsy Cooper was remarkable in this work. An experienced dancer, Cooper brought a depth of understanding that clearly showed as she undulated and twisted throughout the sections she was in. “Surfacing,” while interesting, became too long and could have been strengthened by some judicious editing. In her book on choreography, the great Doris Humphrey admonishes dance makers: “All dances are too long.” Quite a remarkable statement, yet it gets us thinking. Something else that would strengthen the work is to vary its pacing more. Fairly much all the dancers moved at the consistently same rate of speed throughout the work. If we were to just watch it for its rhythmic flow, I believe we’d find that is was flowing and phrasing all in fours at about a walking speed.
In my last review of Kiyon Gaines’ work, I observed that he has the good sense to get out of the way of his dances – that once you start building a dance, they tend to dictate themselves. This work, “Alltogether...different,” was no exception. Energetic and inventive, it presented a fun, kinetic challenge to the dancers. The section that needs the most bolstering though is the concluding one; it didn’t feel like a finale, just an ending.
Seattle Dance Project continues to fill the chamber sized outlet for dance that so many movement afficionados crave. And, frankly, what many of crave is the opportunity to see these beautiful dancers moving and enjoying a second life on their performing careers, courtesy of the vision of its founding artistic directors, Julie Tobiason and Timothy Lynch.
Kudos to all the dancers: Joseph Anderson; Betsy Cooper; Michele Curtis; Alexandra Dickson; Oleg Gorboulev; Dana Hanson; Lynch; Kory Perigo; and Tobiason. Many artists, patrons and other supporters came together for this edition of Seattle Dance Project and we certainly look forward to more creations and future iterations.