Whim W'him in Black Heart Photo Bamberg Fine Art

Whim W’him in Black Heart
Photo Bamberg Fine Art

Cornish Playhouse, Seattle, WA
May 29, 2015

Dean Speer

Olivier Wevers is right in commissioning new work for his company, Whim W’him. It is exciting to see the unfolding of creations; part of which is the dangerous edge that comes along with it, as no one really knows whether they are entirely successful or not until they see the light of the stage – and sometimes not even then.

Kent Stowell used to keep new works around for at least two seasons, which was very smart, as some just need steeping and seasoning. I’d like to see Wevers keep and repeat some works from year to year too. Not every program needs to consist of totally new works. It would be fun to perhaps do more along the lines of building a sense of what the company is and who they are with some audience and dancer favorites; and, perhaps every now and then, do a retrospective program.

Whim W’him’s latest program, X-Posed, featured three new works, the best and strongest of which was the concluding piece, Alone is the Devil, by Wevers himself. In it, a lone male (Jim Kent) was assaulted and assimilated by head-stocking wearing and bug-eyed goons, reminiscent of the Borg of Star Trek infamy. The dancers used a door in a frame that reflected and which could be broken up – to good stage effect. Creepy, yet a strong artistic statement.

Whim W'him in Alone is the Devil Photo Bamberg Fine Art

Whim W’him in Alone is the Devil
Photo Bamberg Fine Art

Kate Wallich’s Black Heart borders on what might be called “non-dance dance.” The content is very gestural with primary use of natural, pedestrian movement with pacing that is mostly at a walking tempo. It has some good nuggets but doesn’t entirely succeed, lurching as it does between dry patches and some really good moments. The development needs to be and could be stronger, and Wallich should re-work it. It is also one of those pieces that just stops, rather than ends.

RIPple efFECT by French choreographer Manuel Vignoulle is an interesting and very good opener. You can always tell when someone puts their heart and soul into something, as he has here; the dancers digging into the material.

The performers seemed to be what used to be called “disturbed.” One central blond in particular is having a harrowing experience. She reminded me of a Seattle connection to mental health with which Vignoulle would not have been familiar, that of the plight of Seattle born-and-bred actress Frances Farmer, who attended West Seattle High School and the University of Washington, winning an award to visit Moscow in 1935. Farmer had a Hollywood, TV and stage career that was tragically interrupted by a five year stay at Western State Hospital in Steilacoom, WA.

The entire Whim W’him company of seven dancers were cast in each piece to good use, and they are lovely and strong, technical artists. Perhaps this is the hint that Whim W’him will need to expand its roster in the future, as daunting as that might seem now. I very much look forward to seeing how they will be deployed during next year’s just-announced Inside/Out season.