Seattle Dances reviews Week One Festival highlights Jun 13, 2015
June marks the return of the NW New Works Festival at On the Boards, where you can catch a variety of dance, theater, and musical performances all in one evening. Weekend one of two (June 5-7) brought eight fresh NW picks to OtB’s two stages, and some very promising pieces of new work. The Mainstage show focused on bigger spaces and bigger movement, while the Studio showcase presented more intimate, theatrical dance pieces, often with the performers telling their story directly to the audience.
One such piece was Markeith Wiley’s 31 and Counting. Highly personal with underlying tension, Wiley portrayed his relationship to his blackness through a shadow character: a figure entirely obscured, including face and hands, in black clothing, danced by Danielle Hammer. The shadow sometimes synced up with Wiley, his movements even and measured, but interjected with quick jerks. Sometimes the shadow evaded him and other times tried to be his friend. The piece, always smoldering just below the surface, finally caught fire as Wiley took the spotlight as alter ego Dushawn Brown, addressing the audience directly—specifically the white people of the audience—with a FAQ-style rant that worked itself into a rage. Wiley’s work is complicated and unsettling. It cuts close to the quick. He does not allow the audience to walk away with a tidy package of understanding, nor any absolution, just gristle to chew on.
Another work from the Studio, Violets on Smoke’s Rooms was one of two works that integrated dance and music. Flanked by two musicians and two dancers, Sarah Paul Ocampo (singer, composer, and choreographer) sang folksy melodic originals while poised elegantly on a couch and staring dryly into the audience. A scene unfolded around her where noises of the cast (the clink of Sara Jinks stirring her coffee, for instance) folded effortlessly into the rhythm of the music. While the musicians rotated out instruments (Accordion! Ukelele!) and shifted occasionally, the dancers were more active: at one point, they crawled under, over, and around the couch before completely retrograding their movements. The precise composition unfolded like some kind of revolving Wes Anderson-inspired family portrait with understated, peculiar hilarity.