Monday, May 3, 2010

Modern dance gets personal

You know those times when you haven’t traveled far from home, yet you experience something far afield from your everyday? One of those for me is the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe. Although I grew up going to the Spokane version, I guess I just hadn’t been to a fair in quite a long while because it all seemed very foreign. Amazing that just a hop, skip and a jump from my usual urban Seattle life were blue-ribbon canned vegetables, pot bellied pig races, deep fried Snickers bars and towering carnival rides. I love that this kind of thing is easily accessible and exists so close to me, if only for a couple of weeks a year.

I had another one of those experiences lately when I got to be a part of a sliver of a new work by much-acclaimed local contemporary dancer, KT Niehoff. You might recognize her name as co-founder and former director of the newly relocated Velocity Dance Center, or as Artistic Director of now 12-year-old collaborative troupe of dance professionals, Lingo. It’s through Lingo’s newest project, A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light, that I had a recent and very personal look into the world of contemporary dance. Glimmer, as described on her website:

“In 2006, KT began investigating the relationship between audience and artist with the primary goal of creating a more tangible intimacy between the two. This search has led her to seek out more potent environments that ask the performer and the witness to confront each other as unique individuals who bring to the exchange their personal histories and desires. A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light, in all its forms, is an outcropping of this search.”

Cool, huh? Especially once you learn about all of the facets of the project: a culminating performance at ACT Theatre; for those same ACT performances, pre-show (!) cocktails with a cast member; dancers as kinetic sculptures throughout the Seattle Art Museum; and something titled One Performer/One Recipient/Many Locations. It’s that last piece in which I got to participate and let me tell you, really hit the mark on the tangible intimacy described above.

In a nutshell, the Glimmer cast was tasked with creating 30 solos for individuals, to be custom-made based on interactions with each person and performed in public locations throughout the city. The process began with a questionnaire -- things like sweet or savory? what items are currently in your pocket? what is the last thing you lost? what is a Seattle location you love? -- followed by more detailed conversations to really get a sense of the person. My friend was the one who sent in the questionnaire and got to experience this whole process, and I was lucky enough to be invited along to the performance.

And the performance? Wow. It turned out that Glimmer cast member Kelly Sullivan invited us into her home for the experience, yet another step in that intimacy for which the project was striving, I thought. Her dancing was powerful, vulnerable, beautiful and spot-on given my friend’s reaction as the solo finished. I was grateful to have been included in something so unique and magical, and again, amazed that this whole world of dance exists all around me. It just happens to be a community that I’m not very familiar with, that I don’t plug into on a regular basis.

If you didn’t luck into participating in the one-to-one performances, or seeing the dancers at SAM, you still have the chance to experience the project at the culminating performance of A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light at ACT through May 15. Can’t wait to see what this piece of the project will look like…

One of the surprising and wonderful outcomes of Kelly’s performance was that we got to meet her boyfriend, Eli Rosenblatt, a very talented artist in his own right. Eli played the guitar as Kelly danced, and the two of them together were absolutely lovely -- and I thought that even before we were treated to tea and breakfast and great conversation. It turns out that Eli has quite a schedule of performances of his own, and I’m excited to add these to my plans to see Glimmer at ACT. Find out more about Eli and his music on his Monarch Duo website, and hear him this Wednesday night at Nectar in Fremont.

Who knew that such great connections could come out of one interaction? KT Niehoff, I suspect.

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