Nearly four years ago, choreographer KT Niehoff disbanded her experimental dance company Lingo Productions. The move seemed to signal a downshift, but was actually more of an artistic sidestep. This spring Niehoff returns with an all-new evening-length work, Before We Flew Like Birds We Flew Like Clouds, which focuses on the lives of four individuals who have extraordinary relationships with their bodies: the first Korean woman to go to space, a professional in-line speed skater, a woman who had a near-death experience and a paraplegic rower.
“It all started with an image really,” Niehoff recalls while discussing the inspiration for the work, commissioned as part of Velocity Dance Center’s Made in Seattle program. “[The image] was a room full of people sitting in chairs and around them were all these floating, star-like objects. I’m not sure exactly where the image came from, but it stuck with me.”
Niehoff spent a year experimenting with balloons, plastic tubes and sand until she figured out how to make them float for Before We Flew. In the show, large orbs hover in the space as dancers Patrick Kilbane, Liane Aung and Alia Swersky navigate the room bequeathing VR headsets to attendees. Each headset shows a short video focused on one of the four subjects and a recorded electronic composition by composer Zeke Keeble weaves together snippets of interviews with them.
As the headsets circulate, audience members see different bits of video footage, but Niehoff’s live vocals and Keeble’s composition provide a shared constant. Says Niehoff, “Everyone has access to a unique experience.”
Before We Flew Like Birds We Flew Like Clouds runs March 9 – April 1 at 12th Avenue Arts