Meydenbauer Center, Bellevue, WA; February 15, 2015

Dean Speer

DancerChoreographer Gabrielle Revlock performs Halo at the Chop Shop Contemporary Dance Festival, 2015.  Photo © Rex Tranter

Dancer/Choreographer Gabrielle Revlock performs ‘Halo’ at the Chop Shop Contemporary Dance Festival, 2015.
Photo © Rex Tranter

I came to love modern dance a long time ago. Its unique and often multiple voices spoke to me. By modern dance, I mean the techniques, styles, and palettes that sometimes in the past – and the present – eschew ballet movement and steps in favor of finding and presenting strong ideas presented through new movement.

Some of these seminal figures included the well-known such as Martha Graham or Paul Taylor and other lesser well-known personages whose work was equally valid but perhaps not all famous.

Producer Eva Stone’s “Chop Shop” is an annual modern dance banquet presented over one weekend in early to mid-winter; and continuing the food analogy, does it buffet style – short courses. A little bit of a lot and yummy. An array that appeals to most tastes, but perhaps not all. It also has the wonderful effect of not only giving a leg-up and exposure to the lesser-known but developing an awareness of their output and styles to audiences. Importantly too, the festival provides more work for dancers.

It was exciting to see that this year’s edition and its creative artists were certainly widely-represented, geographically: Seattle, Portland, San
Francisco, Brussels/Israel, New York, and Vancouver, BC.

The strongest, choreographically, was the work of a choreographer who benefitted from this leg-up himself a couple of seasons ago, Joshua Beamish and his “madness, to speak of nothing”, performed by Christin Call, Natascha Greenwalt, and Marissa Quimby of Seattle’s Coriolis Dance. This trio was amazing in its technical and artistic strength, and seemed like underwater nymphs or sirens who interacted with shapes and rhythms but not partnering.

The program opened with Jamie Karlovich’s “The Deeper Side” that depicted a woman sweeping who, upon turning on an old-time radio/phonograph, immediately gets caught up in the music and begins to dance in a faux nod to the jazz of the ‘40s – and to fantasize her bliss, and who is joined by others, finally coming back to herself when the song has concluded.

From the Bay Area, The Foundry gave us the afternoon’s “table” piece, “Poem Triptych”. The company’s name seemed appropriate as each of the three dancers (Marley Couto, Courtney Mazeika, and Sarah Dione Woods) gave us sharp, gestural movement phrases and their own worktables, in impressive unison and appeared to be resolutely working in some kind of factory – with three on-stage tables.

The two chairs and kettle came from a single source. Canada-born, Israel-raised, and now choreography Masters student in Amsterdam, Asher Lev’s solo piece was titled, yes, “The Kettle”. Beginning with a kettle on one of the chairs with a microphone poised and pointed to it, Lev, rises from the audience, comes up onto the stage and, sitting down on the unoccupied folding chair, turns on the kettle and we all wait while, yes indeedy again, we all watched (and listened) to the kettle come to a boil. He then launched into some interesting isolations.

Project20 looked Canadian and had that feel, too, in Donald Sales’ choreography and concept. In excepts from his “gR33N”, four women were dressed like baristas with white shirts and short black ties and wearing black bike pants. The pants were not a good idea.

Alana O’Farrell Rogers’ “Rewind” dealt with the tough subject of loss, specifically that of memory, depicting a day in the life of one youngish soul and the other dancers appeared to represent either other aspects of this person’s life or personality and/or the neurons mentioned in the lead-in in the printed program.

“Stand Tall” was a male duet based on the premise of each having a brief case that seemed to represent each one’s maleness and how this changed during the course of the piece. Samuel Hobbs and Gerard Regot of Portland danced, rolled on the floor, and then exited with their respective cases.

Gabrielle Revlock’s hula hoop “Halo” piece was mesmerizing and exhibited great control and varied use of a hoop, creating beautiful imagery.

Stone’s own company, The Stone Dance Collective concluded the program with “A Way to See Where Other Things Are” to Baroque composer Corelli’s music, made up of short sections that easily showcased Stone’s attractive cadre of female dancers.