KT Niehoff’s new show A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light is not for everyone, especially those who prefer to admire performance art from a distance. Confined to ACT’s tiny Bullitt Cabaret—where the audience is encouraged to physically follow the show—the dancers move around you. They might even collide into you. At one point a flailing male dancer nearly tumbled onto my foot, flattening me against the wall as a menacing woman chased him. And then there was the screaming naked man…
But it’s all part of Niehoff’s master plan: to explore the relationship between the artist and consumer, the performer and audience member. It started with a series of one-on-one solos performed around the city and a kinetic installation at the Seattle Art Museum, and now concludes with Glimmer, an avant-garde experiment that ends up being both accessible and entertaining. Blurring the line between voyeurism and total immersion, Niehoff’s Lingo Dance troupe invokes emotions people are normally very guarded about: jealousy, rage, intimacy, desire, shame and self-destructiveness. Sometimes, they do it naked (both men and women). It’s a frank assessment of our psyche, with raw power that keeps you from turning away.
A core of four artists in cream-colored garb moves between three tiled mini stages and up gilded staircases, dancing solos, in pairs, or all together. Gloomy electronic beats accompany them, punctuated by fits of punky garage rock from indie band Ivory in Ice World. Floating in the periphery is a troupe of glammed-up “chorus girls” clad in bright blue and spiked heels; they wander in and out of the audience, occasionally heckling the performance. Meanwhile, a singular figure in white—like an ominous bride in her extravagant ivory dress—watches from a distance, only joining the fray toward the end.
Nothing is more infuriating than contemporary dance done with sub-par dancers and flat, esoteric choreography. Glimmer is rather the opposite. I’ve always been on the fence when it comes to modern dance, but Niehoff’s production—with its innovative structure and atmospheric music—won me over.
Glimmer runs through May 15 at ACT Theatre. It is not recommended for children.