Over the weekend local choreographer Marlo Martin produced the second weekend of the annual BOOST Dance Festival. Now in its third year, BOOST seeks to provide local dance artists with opportunities to showcase their work. This year the second weekend featured innovative and young choreographers throwing caution to the wind and presenting fresh new works full of avant-garde flair.
Full-skirted costumes added to the visual flair of Union, choreographed by Iyun Ashani Harrison of Ashani Dances. Heavy music set the tone, and a mix of male and female dancers spun and whirled around the stage in a flourish of brightly colored fabric. Male-female power struggles were hinted through several duets where male dancers control their partners, slapping their legs, thrashing them around and hovering over them. Duets stood out among the ensemble; group work is always difficult, and when the dancers are not all completely synchronized (as was the case) the overall effect can be sloppy or chaotic.
Aside from having lengthy titles, Ode to Exhalation and a Spark: Excerpt (Victoria McConnell and Kenaniah Bystrom of Project29) and Abnormalities of the Thorax: Abdominal Viscera (Eric E. Aguilar of SERENDIP Dance Company) both showed the lyrical side of contemporary dance. The former used spoken word (phrases such as, “I am both devil and divine”), an esoteric convention that was poetic, and added an element of surprise to the sweeping arms and sliding, sock-clad feet. Ode to featured dramatic modern dance, and one standout torso-rotating solo that stole the piece as the loose-limbed dancer (with a strong sense of musicality) moved around the stage in total ease of her body; no strain, no overtly expended energy—just a beautifully natural embrace of the music.
The two most surprising pieces of the night were polar opposites in tone (one serious, one full of feel-good humor), but both presented an element of the unexpected, making them very memorable. Make Cents, Make Cents, choreographed and performed by Calie Swedberg and Markeith Wiley had the two dancing amid whimsical showers of raining coins—thrown in by the handful from offstage. The dancing was playful: slightly infused by hip-hop or break dancing (at one point Wiley does a headstand) and mixed with ballet (arabesques, pointed toes, attitudes). Unseen, choreographed and performed by Jeanette Jing Male, was truly avant-garde in nature, and emotionally provocative. A set of two attached white wooden squares that made a corner were set up at center stage, and Jing Male, blindfolded for throughout the entire piece, performed against the wall, often climbing up with just her feet (hand still on the ground) and displaying an impressive range of flexibility and balance. Every time she moved along the sides of the side toward the outer edges of each wall, she always jettisoned herself back to the corner, bent forward as though there were a string at her back; she’s trapped in more than one way.
Amid the more obscure names, a Seattle dance veteran showed up on the program, but this time not as a choreographer. Zoe Schofield performed alongside Erica Badgeley and Kate Wallich, the latter of whom choreographed the highly conceptual Sound over taking your ears, volume taking over your body. Aptly named (the sound design was loud) the three dancers moved around the stage in silver spandex, arching their bodies, stretching and bending slowly, undulating their hips in frank sexuality. At one point all three stood downstage and rotated their bodies in circles, only slightly moving their feet, creating an anxious tension—the music is fast, suggesting that the dancers too should be moving fast, but their subtle rotation is executed at an agonizingly slow pace for a very long time, a juxtaposition that requires a shift in audience expectations.
Marlo Martin’s tenSIDES was an excerpt of a work she will present in late-April at Velocity Dance Center. Her sophisticated and beautiful modern choreography used audible breath, a row of leather chairs and several talented duets to create an ominous feeling on the stage. Dancers moved in a rotation of heavy and light motions, swirling around the stage, hair hanging in their faces, intensity running along their limbs. The work was divided up into different sections, each one with a varying emotional tone, but all equally interesting to watch; if this is just an excerpt, there should be much anticipation for what’s to come.