NW New Works: BLOG REPORT - May 17, 2008 May 18, 2008

by Tania Kupczak

Yesterday, I attended the Mainstage Showcase at The NW New Works Festival at On the Boards in Seattle, WA. Sean Ryan, Regional Programs Coordinator of On the Boards, received a warm greeting from the audience when he stepped out to announce the evening’s lineup. After thanking 4Culture, Windward Communications Group, and other supporters, Sean took time to name past alumnus of The NW New Works Festival, an impressive list, starting with modern dance bad boy Mark Morris performing at The Paramount. Choreographers Jessica Jobaris, Luke Allen, and Maureen Whiting have new upcoming shows. It is typical of the generous spirit of On the Boards and its history of nurturing and promoting new talent that Sean, who has spent the last six months producing a gem-filled festival, would share the limelight with community partners. This year’s showcased artists lived up to the NW New Works Festival’s illustrious twenty-five year history. Danny Herter & the Invasive Species presented Remote :: Control. The choreography set up traverse patterns of movement without allowing the busy pairs of dancers to engage in cross interactions. Each pair had an earnest task to complete and little time, even while at play, for others around them. The ensemble was paired off into playground girls; ball field boys; late night TV watchers; the tap dancer and his apprentice. The piece closed with the two TV watchers crouched over the glowing blue screens. The popular music performance group  “Awesome ” chose to emphasize the making of the thing, rather than presenting a shrink-wrapped consumer product. Audience expectations were upended when  “Awesome ” subverted the equation of live performance as  “ wow, it sounds just like their CD but better. ” Instead, each goofy musician makes a performance out of carrying his instrument on stage, as confetti and colored balls bounce around their heads. Push-broom wielding musicians then sweep up the playful clutter. Duets are played; sound equipment like magic boxes are treated like shared toys. What else but such joyful absurdity could we have expected? We knew from the start that we are not going to hear a typical set, as two musicians lovingly stroke the same guitar and an indifferent stranger watches feathers drift down from the sky. After intermission, Launch Dance Theater wrapped itself in color and delicate nuance in pro re nata. Three principal dancers, beguilingly attired by Costumer Helga Hizer, move through a series of quiet revelations. Rebecca Brown’s text, quietly intoned by an unseen narrator, speaks in double negatives and impossible choices. A single dancer in white attempts to conjoin reality with perception through multi-media devices. Eventually, we realize that the piece is an elegy to a woman soldier lost in battle. The scrambling of descriptive phrases such as  “She called her husband Sport ” into different subject-verb-object combinations becomes an elegy of the lost particulars of a woman living her life. All these possibilities are lost with her. Peter Burr and Christopher Doulgeris brought out happy happy hippy hoppy and spanked it. Like the preceding Launch Dance Theater, Hooliganship chose to juggle notions of real and Realer. But through their 3-D pop glasses, the world looks like a sugar high. We are invited to sit down and watch TV. As Peter and Christopher played air guitar on real instruments, the 20 foot screen behind them filled with bouncing images: cartoons of the performers; a Springfield nuclear waste pipe pouring out acid yellow; magic eye books bumping into static-filled screens, remote control surfing like MTV edits; and spin-out neon neuron collages. Hooliganship describes itself as  “reveling in a hypnotic abundance of digital information. ” And when they go on autumn tour, we are promised not just a DVD, not just a musical record, but a pop-up book as well. Fan-fun-fucking-tastic. - Fabian Linden