Spectrum Dance Theater Is Resisting Too—Artfully

The three works of the 2017 Spectrum season don’t pull any punches when it comes to hot-button issues.

By Seth Sommerfeld January 19, 2017 Published in the February 2017 issue of Seattle Met

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Image: Tino Tran

In the wake of the presidential election, a conversation arose about the artistic response to a Trump administration. Would it inspire a new era of protest art or would fear of a McCarthyist silencing of voices occur?

Passivity, fortunately, is not a part of Spectrum Dance Theater executive artistic director and choreographer Donald Byrd’s lexicon. Spectrum has employed contemporary dance “as a social/civic instrument” for 35 years. (Witness last season’s #RACEish, focused on black composers, dance, and writer James Baldwin.)

This time Spectrum plans to resist.

“People have been talking about the normalization of certain negative things,” says Byrd, “these Trumpisms during this Trump time. The resistance is really how do we as individuals resist that normalization. It is important to not allow oneself to be lulled into some kind of new normal around the kind of behavior that was exhibited during the campaign.”

The three works of the 2017 Spectrum season, American: Identity, Race, or Culture?, don’t pull any punches when it comes to hot-button issues: The first, Shot, tackles police shootings of unarmed black men. Rambunctious Iteration #3 – The Immigrants offers a direct response to Trump rhetoric by showcasing evidence of immigrant artists’ positive contributions to American culture. (Im)pulse, a response to the Orlando nightclub shooting, looks at our country’s long history of violence against the LGBTQ community.

“It seems even more important to go forward with these programs because these issues have not gone away,” says Byrd. “Just like Trump doubles down, we need to double down on these issues that these pieces raise.”

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