Open Flight Studio, Seattle, WA; April 17, 2015
Unfixed Arias continued the link begun in its performance space by one of the earliest of Seattle modern dance pioneers, Martha Nishitani, whose longtime University District studio served as a beacon and attraction for many decades until her retirement in 2002, presenting a two-week run in Nishitani’s former base now re-branded, Open Flight Studio.
The recurring theme of the show seemed to be a space odyssey in seven parts, following some pre-show “installations” that were fluid exercises in democracy for its audience, as we “voted” and moved from place to place within the studio, before taking our seats on movable risers. Our perspective was changed during intermission as the risers were moved so we then viewed the dances in more of a wide and shallow proscenium setting, as opposed to the earlier one where they were presented at the narrow end of an oblong, rectangular room.
With the titles of Threaded Cosmos, Stardazed, Future Past Bedtime, and Limitations 7 for the pre-show installations, we began to get the hint that we were in for a Star Trek-inspired journey.
Costumes were very creative, well-designed and made and appropriately in character for each dance. This was very impressive in itself. Lighting and other production elements, such as props and modest set pieces were adapted for the studio space and I enjoyed the use of slide/video projection in the first half, which to me was a very smart idea, using one device to not only induce the context for pieces but was a great work-around for available lighting.
This first half consisted of dances whose titles gave way to some terrific dancing: Aestraea/Orbiting, Boldly going there; Supermassive gravitational collapse, Vortex and immanence/transcendence. The theme continued in part two with insofaras the landscopic field report, concluding with Estranged incandescence. A Funeral. This concluding work included as its music the iconic and ironic solo from Puccini’s comedic opera Gianni Schicchi, “O Mio Babbino Caro” (O Daddy Dearest), the irony being that the aria is not comedic at all, but deeply heartfelt and beautifully sad, as sung a cappella here by Seattle-based American soprano, Sarah Davis.
My only choreographic fuss would be that many of the dances shared the same pacing – a walking tempo and would have liked the directors and choreographers, Christin Call and Natascha Greenwalt to have shaken things up a bit more. A marketing suggestion would be to have titled something either above or with Unfixed Arias such as Unfixed Arias – a cosmic experience or Unfixed Arias – a space odyssey, which is what it was. Going into the show, I was not clear what to expect other than in the broadest terms, and it would have been nice to at least have gleaned something more. I knew from the press release what many of the elements and components were but an overall, arching theme would have been additionally useful.The six female dancers (Christin Call, Natascha Greenwalt, Kat Murphy, Mariko Nagashima, Marissa Quimby, and Hannah Simmons) all have the wonderful attribute of possessing excellent technique and it was clear each were seasoned performers. It may seem a simplistic thing to say, but so true – it was refreshing to see and enjoying dancers dancing. Too often well-meaning but largely uniformed choreographers dwell too much on concept or introspection and intentionally (hopefully!) neglect the actual dancing. This was not the case here, as the ideas were built into well-crafted dances.
I was happy to see that Unfixed Arias received local support from donors – each category cleverly named to fit into the cosmic riff – as well as from other governmental and business partners.
Having first become aware of Coriolis Dance through the annual Chop Shop modern dance festival in Bellevue, Washington, and being greatly impressed with the level of dancing, it was nice seeing these artists in a showcase of their creative and artistic talent.