Browser’s delight

Dancing on the artsEdge.

One nice thing about a festival like artsEdge is that it’s easy to browse among several events, rather like an arts version of a salad bar. Usually if you want to see contrasting works you need to combine the elements yourself, but here juxtapositions were part of the action—from Butoh to with break dance, with several stops in between.


Seattle Center

June 26

With their liquid physicality and tender partnering, the dancers of BetterBiscuitDance often look like they stepped out of a contemporary version of a Maxfield Parrish painting. Underneath this luscious quality, little glitches and ticks keep the work from dissolving into a miasma of sweetness. In Span, the dancers lash themselves together with a rope, then strain and lurch against the restraint, while in It Keeps the Bees Away, the two women make tiny adjustments to each other, lowering a shoulder or crossing and recrossing fingers.

Both Rebekkah Dinaburg and Kristen Tsiatsios are working in a dance-theater direction, where props and text contribute as much to the meaning of a dance as the movement. Dinaburg’s before opened a set of pictures hanging from the rafters, images taken from nightmares counterpoised by singers performing variations on a lullaby. Her dancers entered whispering to themselves, reciting from the books they carried, only to pile them up in untidy heaps and then try to balance on top. Tsiatsios’ Seeds for the glassbones company was full of “things”: a man crouching in an oversized birdcage, a woman in a giant nest carrying a smaller nest with bright red eggs, another woman in a capuchin hood with long green feathers attached to her fingernails. These visual images often trumped the movement surrounding them.

Out on a utilitarian platform by the International Fountain, the break dancers of By Any Means Necessary were winning the battle with gravity. Breaking often looks like boxing, where the intricate footwork is a contrast to the powerful attack. In this case, the fight is with the floor, and a successful bout usually ends with some kind of astonishing trick instead of a knockout. Head spins make me too nervous to really appreciate them, but several breakers here have mastered turning on the heel of the hand, shifting from hand to hand in an elegant looping pattern. This was physics made visible.

Back inside, Michelle de la Vega’s witty Ro opened with a reading on canning from the Good Housekeeping Cookbook, while she and her dancers walked on top of a row of Mason jars. The jars became metaphors, props, and musical instruments, clattering softly as they were pushed around the stage. Worn like gloves, they turned hands into shining clubs. Sturdy enough to be sat on, it was a jolt when one of them broke, making us concerned for the performers’ bare feet.

In the Moment, with Dappin’ Butoh and guests, combined percussion, poetry, and dance in an improvisation that ranged from the mordant to the absurd. At one point the two dancers, in elegant evening clothes, face off as if part of a morose bull fight. They wrangle and nuzzle like Mutt and Jeff, unable to cooperate but unwilling to stop trying.

On my way out of Seattle Center, I saw a life-sized shadow show, a kind of Indonesian wayang kulit with humans instead of puppets. As I passed, the light flashed and went out, leaving the image of the dancer hovering in the air burned on my retina.