Cornish Playhouse, Seattle, WA; January 17, 2014 Dean Speer
An intense shared experience creates a singular kind of camaraderie. This is true for those in the military, those who have taken dance training classes together, those who have laughed together and those who have lost together. It’s a collective experience and a shared, often visceral memory.
Fortifying myself for Whim W’him’s inaugural concert series of 2014, I knew in advance that I’d have to keep myself emotionally distant while watching this show – the first dance being based on the all-too-public shootings of recent years. My parents outlived one of their sons and my deceased brother – who had special needs, sadly experienced his own measure of violence – inflicted both on us and on his person especially while a ward of the state in a mental hospital in which physical attacks by patients on other patients being all too frequent.
One of the greatest challenges of the dancers in Oliver Wevers’ “Instant Bound” was to show the shock and deep level of grief that families experience and must work through in these kind of tragedies – and for Wevers to choreographically tell a story but without being too maudlin. Even in the darkest of stage work, you must leaven some glimmer of hope. I liked how the dance opened with one dancer replacing another in a circle of light and how the cast moved in and out of the action –from being participants to being helpless bystanders. “Instant Bound” tackled topical and difficult subject matter with sensitivity. It was clear that great thought went into the craft of this strong work.
Wevers can also be credited for bringing the work of Spanish choreographer, Juanjo Arques to this country for the first time. Frank about sexual encounters and flirtations, “Crossroads” explores the attempts at connecting emotionally with someone and the re-bounds and re-directions that occur – and the occasional regrets and maturity that happen along the way. Arques used everyday movement, such as walking as part of his dancers’ palette, and then re-invigorated this through deployment of their considerable technique.
“Les Sylphides” is a big and broad target and I’m glad that Wevers didn’t try to mimic the original choreography or costumes or mannerisms of the original Fokine [as others have when making a satirical version]. Only keeping the title and music, he, rather, made a small humorous story of six 20-somethings having a not-too-successful dinner party, interrupted by a hyped-up friend. Ranging from boredom to bedroom to extra-marital discovery by a third party (who started pointing and laughing), the reverie accelerated, though not perhaps quite in the way that the host and hostess had intended as the night wore on and some guests had too much to drink, realizing the honesty of their own relationship was perhaps a fraud – or at least not as solid as they pretended. Wevers should also be credited with building Whim W’him from the ground floor up, at first using friends and colleagues as dancers and supporting artists but now celebrating 2014 with the launching of hiring eight dancers under contract, a couple of whom who have worked with him in the past. It will be a pleasure to see how this strong core of talented dancers build together Whim W’him’s future presentations.