MY FIRST CLEAR memory of Pat Graney is actually from her performance of a work by Mark Morris. Graney's slightly enigmatic figure moved with skill and clarity, but didn't reflect any specific dance style. Some of the phrases were challenging, but her emphasis wasn't on virtuosity. She had, however, the completeness that sophisticated art works often have—it was exactly what it should be. And while Graney has followed her own curiosity as a choreographer over the past 20 years, when she receives this year's Golden Umbrella award at Bumbershoot it will be for a body of work that continues to present that sense of completeness.
PAT GRANEY COMPANY
Bagley Wright Theater, Friday, 7:30-9:30pm Bagley Wright Theater, Saturday, noon-1:30pm Interview Stage, Exhibition Hall, Saturday, 3:30-4:15pm
Unlike many choreographers, Graney brings a highly developed visual sense to her work along with her movement invention. Whether it's the spooky landscape of Childrenz Museum, in which the dancers hang upside-down like bats; the bathing beauties of Pagan Love Song; or the knobby knees of the Catholic schoolgirls in Colleen Ann; Graney's works leave the audience with a vivid set of images. She has joked about becoming a visual artist, but in fact she already is, using the human body as a kinetic element in a complex environment.
In Triptych, a trio of works she's created over the last 10 years, her collaborations with visual artists have enhanced this combination, adding a rich mix of scenic elements. Sleep (the trio's middle work) deals directly with dream images, but in a way all of these recent works are dreamscapes, juxtaposing multiple views of reality with sequences that are clearly inspired by the imagination. One of the simplest and most distinctive of these comes from last season's Tattoo (which will be performed at Bumbershoot). The work features a "waterfall" of sand, at once peaceful and disturbing, that cascades noiselessly onto the stage.
GRANEY HAS BEEN an integral part of the Seattle arts community almost as long as she has been making dances: teaching, mentoring, and speaking out for dance and dancers during the turmoil of the 1980s and early '90s. More recently she has been developing "Keeping the Faith: The Prison Project," introducing art-making to incarcerated populations and in the process helping them understand themselves and their own situations through performance.
Bumbershoot's Golden Umbrella presentation will include the premiere of a documentary on Graney and the making of Tattoo produced by KCTS, which will be broadcast later in September. The company is taking Tattoo on the road this year, with performances across the country, some of them coordinated with "Keeping the Faith" residencies. While the Golden Umbrella recognizes what Graney has accomplished, it by no means marks the end of a career. It's more like the crowd cheering someone on in the middle of the race: You've come this far—now keep going!*
Project Bandaloop—What would it be like to see Baryshnikov rappel? I got a major crick in my neck watching Project Bandaloop's 1996 Bumbershoot performance, as this ensemble of "vertical dancers" caromed around the Space Needle in an astonishing combination of rock climbing and dance techniques. They make your stomach lurch the like best special effects, while their spinning and looping patterns match the sleek curves of the Seattle landmark. Hanging from the Space Needle, Fri 7:15-7:30pm, Sat 5:15-5:30pm, Sun 6:45-7pm, Mon 4:45-5pm; Interview Stage, Exhibition Hall, Sun 2:15-3pm
Urban Bush Women—Jawole Willa Jo Zollar is part of a generation of African-American artists who bridge contemporary and traditional worlds, combining materials or techniques from the village and the street. Storytelling, singing, chanting, and dancing call up images from the past and the present, challenging our acceptance of current norms. Opera House, Sat 8-10pm; Bagley Wright Theater, Sun noon-2pm; Interview Stage, Exhibition Hall, Sun 3:30-4:15pm
Crispin Spaeth Dance Group—Crispin Spaeth has found a topic well matched to her explosive physicality in "Engine Anthem: Part I," dealing with "the road and the motor." With a score by Amy Denio, Matthew Sperry, Wayne Horvitz, and Tucker Martine, the work is part of an ongoing project exploring creativity and American ingenuity, but also promises to be a wild ride. Bagley Wright Theater, Sat 3-4pm, Sun 7:45-8:30pm
Gypsy Caravan—In our culture Gypsies have become more of an idea than an actual people, a metaphor for the exotic and mysterious. Gypsy Caravan is a reflection of the actual life of the gypsy, performing the unique blending of Eastern and Western dance and music usually called belly dancing. Teatro Circo Stage, Mon 2:30-3:15pm and 7-7:45pm
Keiko Hamaguchi Dance Company/ KT Dance—Local choreographer KT Niehoff invited Hamaguchi to bring her ensemble to Seattle and present her "Souls on Earth," blending dance and chanting sutra. With 20-plus dancers and musicians on stage drawn from both groups, Hamaguchi's choreography can be transforming. Bagley Wright Theater, Sun 3-4pm