Tory Peil and Thomas Phelan in "Brahms and Tights" Bamberg Fine Art

Tory Peil and Thomas Phelan
in “Brahms and Tights”
Bamberg Fine Art

Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center
Friday, January 22, 2016, 8:00 p.m.

Dean Speer

There is an aphorism that goes something like, “A fountain can rise no higher than its source.” I believe it takes great music to make great dance art and the choreographers for Whim W’Him’s latest show were inspired by this, with differing approaches.

Olivier Wevers’ Brahms and Tights used the first movement of the Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major, Op 77 as more or less a catalyst and atmospheric backdrop to his inventive movement for his talented company members. In contrast, Mark Haim’s Overflow, tended to follow its score – the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde [Wagner], patterning his choreographic motifs and mood, creating a darker piece suggesting the flow of time and people. It’s interesting to note that, while each composer is essentially of the same era and time period, they were at opposite ends of musical goals. Brahms was a classicist and wanted to be the next Beethoven while Wagner was looking to invent the music of the future. The last work used the original music of its imported-from-Houston musicians, the Two-Star Symphony for Dominic Walsh’s The Ghost Behind Me, where in this case, the choreography seemed to be a marriage of contemporary sound and dance.

Brahms and Tights is a bright, cheerful work with the dancers in Ronalee Wear’s lime-green costumes – tights for all the men except one and pleated green skirts and tops for the women. A very athletic creation, I liked how Wevers treated one of the violin’s cadenzas, with a freeze-frame of the dancers. He teased us with one ensemble bit and I would have liked more…how great to see this amazing group of dancers move in this manner. I know that too much unison can actually dull a work, even in music, but in this case, perhaps too spare. Wevers too is calling more and more upon his dancers’ prodigious technique, allowing it to show and shine. Brahms and Tights is a “keeper” and the dancers deserve this treatment to, not just dance to, but more importantly, in which to respond.

Overflow is a timely work, addressing and honoring not only his migrant parents but [and perhaps this is not his original intent] today’s overwhelming European migration, reported to be one of the largest, ever, with upward of millions fleeing and trying to find new homes and lands. Corrie Befort’s set of a slowing descending transparent blackish-gray cloth with and increasing number of cutout footprints on it, was telling and added a heightened send of drama.

The Ghost Behind Me I think is the first work of Dominc Walsh that I’ve seen. His premise is one of a puppeteer [Justin Reiter] manipulating the cast not only in terms of poses, spatial placement and groupings, but the direction and arc of the work. I’m guessing that its creepiness was intentional.

I’m happy to report the audience was on their feet, clapping and cheering mightily for Whim W’Him at the conclusion. The enthusiasm for Wevers’ baby is infectious and he’s built his own following over the years. [I don’t see the usual PNB dance crowd, although there appears to be some crossover.]

I look forward to their next show and to seeing the direction Whim W’him takes in its future.