In January Whim W’Him artistic director Olivier Wevers surprised longtime fans with the premiere of Brahms and Tights—a lighthearted departure from past works brimming with shadowy topics and heavy themes such as personal demons, gun control, self-hatred. Choreographed to Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major, the work was a pure study of non-narrative movement.
“People were coming up to me very excited about the lightness of the piece,” he says on a recent day in rehearsal for the company’s 2016 season-closing program. “Usually my work is less abstract and a lot darker. My new creation goes back to that. It uses a lot of metaphor.”
The piece he’s talking about, A Disagreeable Tale of Duplicity, premieres this weekend as part of OUT-spoken, sharing the bill with longtime Whim W’Him collaborator Annabelle Lopez Ochoa (Amsterdam), and LA- and Montreal-based dancer/choreographer James Gregg.
The show opens with Wevers’ emotional work—a relationship between two dancers is violently disrupted, their life choices changing the landscape of their interactions. Then it transitions to Gregg’s nuanced duet between Patrick Kilbane and Jim Kent, Into You I Go Willingly, created as the result of a prestigious Princess Grace Award. Gregg’s piece explores the tenderness of a developing relationship—and its graceful sweeping movement and intermittent embraces are a strong antithesis to the violence at the end of Wevers’ piece. Closing out the show is Ochoa’s Delicious Pesticides, a comedic work drawing inspiration from Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. It’s refreshingly unique, mixing modern dance, theatre, and crime drama tropes, as well as sound clips from the movie, (“Royale with cheese,” anyone?).
After rehearsal we caught up with Wevers for a quick chat about the show.
You’ve worked with Annabelle before (this is her fourth piece for the company), but how did you start working with James Gregg?
Having diversity in the program is really important for me. I always try to have a female choreographer, and this time around it was Annabelle because this program worked with her schedule! In fact, she’s so busy that we’re already talking about the next piece of work we want to commission from her. I’ve been following James’ work for some time now. When I nominated him for the Princess Grace award it was specifically to get a commission for him to create a piece for us. As a company that is only six years old, it was a long shot. But he got it and that is the first time a choreographer who has won the award [Gregg] is choreographing a piece for the company of a former recipient [Wevers himself], so that’s a pretty humbling and exciting experience for us.
Your new piece, A Disagreeable Tale of Duplicity seems to venture back into heavily emotional territory.
I started working on this at a time in my life where I had a lot of extra emotion and energy that I was able to channel into creating. The title covers a lot of what is happening in the work. I infused it with very personal anecdotes, but at the same time the story of betrayal is unfortunately very universal. We all fall victim to it at some point in our lives.
What can people expect from it?
I’m definitely exploring diverse aspects of relationships and life—it’s a lot more theatrical than my last, which was really focused on the music and movement. For A Disagreeable Tale [of Duplicity] I wanted to play with the idea of disturbing the lightness of the stage and make it claustrophobic. The wings will be set up in a way so that they filter down to a tiny eight-foot square hole at the back that’s covered in fringe. You will be able to see people walking in the back but not know who they are—I’m experimenting with the theatricality of disappearance.
OUT-spoken runs June 3–4 and June 10–11 at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center. Tickets here.