Dance Review

Don’t Speak

Seattle Dance Project moves beautifully, talks poorly

By Steve Wiecking January 23, 2009

It’s a dance project, right?

If Seattle Dance Project wants to dance, I’ll keep quiet. If, on the other hand, they want to talk, I have two words for them: Please don’t.

Experiencing the company’s worthy Project Two also means enduring self-congratulatory video interludes in which the dancers explain to us that…they’re dancing. And that they’re pushing at their boundaries. And that it’s exciting stuff. The second I saw the screen lower I wanted to run; SDP had already pulled this on us at Project One. But I’ve seen these people dance so I stuck around.

I’m glad I did.

The evening’s opener, Self and Other/Chopin Etudes, is the weak leak. Choreographer Maureen Whiting, in that blasted video, talks about “seeing the music” in the bodies of the troupe. Her vision’s good and so are her details: When Chopin’s piano undulates she matches it with the dancers’ swaying hips; when it trills she puts their fingers nervously fluttering on their legs. But the piece is all details without forward momentum—and, anyway, it’ll never get anywhere in Helga Hizer’s brown fringed costumes, which have everybody resembling ’70s plant hangers.

Former New York City Ballet star Edward Liang’s Flight of Angels, set to John Tavener’s portentous “Song for Athene,” is a gem in its Seattle premiere. The pas de deux looks as if it were some breathless, beautiful escape across a lake of ice. Julie Tobiason and Oleg Gorboulev (they’ll both dance it again tonight but not Saturday) complement each other in a way that suggests real need; this is the Orpheus and Eurydice we didn’t quite get out of SDP’s spotty Project Orpheus last fall.

For Surfacing, choreographer Heidi Verthaler collaborated with the dancers to create an improv-driven work of rangy imagination. The four dancers move like freshly oiled tin men coming to life, turning every joint in discovering the thrill and perplexity of a body’s possibilities. Music composed by Andy Moor—clanky percussiveness that builds into something else entirely—adds to what feels genuinely special and spontaneous.

The kicky Alltogether…different, by Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Kiyon Gaines, features four movements each set to a different piece of music (including Radiohead as performed by Vitamin C String Quartet) that somehow cohere in electric fashion. Gaines is very quickly establishing himself as a choreographer of major promise. He’s already comfortable with quicksilver shifts in tone—his piece turns drama into comedy and back again: Tobiason sighs in mock exhaustion, drops, is suddenly caught then briefly held.

This company is (what do you know?) dancing. And pushing at their boundaries. And it is exciting stuff. It would be so nice if they’d trust us to figure that out on our own.

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