Whim W’Him’s dancer-curated ‘Choreographic Shindig’

Photo by Stefano Altamura

Dance company members rarely get a say in the work they do, but in Whim W’him’s annual Choreographic Shindig, the dancers curate the show. “The opportunity is any dancer’s dream come true,” says Whim dancer Cameron Birts. For the fourth annual Shindig, opening Sept. 7 at Erickson Theatre, the cast chose three choreographers from across the country to make new work on the company, from a pool of nearly 200 applicants. “To choose who we want to be in process with immediately changes our relationship to these works,” says dancer Jane Cracovaner.

All three selected works take full advantage of the Whim W’him dancers’ extreme technical skill and promise to push the dancers’ emotional delivery. This balance is a priority during curation. Birts notes the desire to select choreographers who “push us outside of our comfort zone, make us grow as individuals and as a company.” For Karl Watson, the curation process was also a process of introspection: “Do I simply want to experience their movement from my desire as a dancer?” he asks. “Do I feel that they have something important to say that would be of value to an audience?”

Omar Román De Jesús of San Juan, Puerto Rico, has created Welcome to Barrio Ataxia, a work as full of exuberance as the accompanying Latin music; dancers hit punctuated shapes, turn on a dime, jump and shimmy in the air. Layered in with the fun are quick moments of incongruity—a blank stare or violent gesture that belie a darkness below the surface.

Hubbard Street’s Alice Klock combines idiosyncratic gestures with extreme physicality in her work Before After. Each impulse, whether a flicking of the hand or a dramatic fall to the floor, manifests instantly in the dancers’ bodies, creating a cinematic effect as if cutting between images, an emotional portrayal of missed connections.

Brooklyn-based Brendan Duggan is using his recent knee surgery as an opportunity to embrace a more collaborative process where the dancers are highly involved in movement creation. Exploring the difference between loneliness and being alone, the choreography uses skin contact as a generator for movement, resulting in a taffy-like puzzle of bodies, pushing, pulling, and inverting itself in sculptural partnering.

“Since joining [the company] this may be my favorite batch of choreographers,” says Whim dancer Adrian Hoffman. “For all three this is one of their first major company commissions and as dancers their excitement is contagious.”

Sept. 7–15
Erickson Theatre