Bumbershoot: A 75-Minute Bach Block

Mark Haim gives his dancers all the Variations.

When choreographer Mark Haim first set a dance to Bach's "Goldberg" Variations in 1997, it was a special sort of solo challenge. As pianists might learn the tricky score just to prove they can, Haim's Goldberg Variations was a kind of endurance contest, organized with the same kind of strategies that distance runners use, shifting between devilishly complex twists and simple locomotor phrases. Haim translated the baroque pulse of Bach's music into a generous anthology of vignettes, some of them humorous, some poignant, and some transcendent. There are footballers and disco dancers and visions of Isadora Duncan, all tumbled together in a demonstration of matter-of-fact virtuosity.When he later became an artist-in-residence at the University of Washington, Haim set the piece on a roiling group of Seattle's best dancers, transforming it into a showcase for their distinct talents and making it seem custom-tailored for them. When they performed at On the Boards in 2006, audiences were enchanted. I came back again and again.Haim is an itinerant choreographer, trained at Juilliard in a variety of styles and seemingly happy to keep moving from place to place. (He currently teaches at Reed College, among other settings.) For Bumbershoot he's assembled an even larger cast. Jim Kent, Tonya Lockyer, and Sean Ryan are back from the OtB performance, joined by Betsy Cooper, Ezra Dickenson, Alice Gosti, Beth Graczyk, Jody Kuehner, Jürg Koch, Devin McDermott, and KT Niehoff, along with pianist Françoise Papillon. Though Haim wonders how a program with music originally written, legend has it, as an antidote to insomnia will compete with the beer-and-sunshine part of the festival, this is a show well worth standing in a Bumbershoot-sized line for, and a great way to launch a high-endurance binge weekend of culture.skurtz@seattleweekly.com

 
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