Seattle Dance Festival Takeover

June boast two of the most innovative events on the local performance calendar.

Seattle is a festival town, especially in June. Alongside the behemoths that are SIFF, Upstream, Fremont Fair, and PrideFest, the dance community fields two big collections: On the Boards’ Northwest New Works Festival (NWNW) and the Seattle International Dance Festival (SIDF). Combined, the two host 15 evenings packed with dancey action.

At On the Boards, the untraditional is tradition. The multidisciplinary artists presenting over NWNW’s two weekends (June 8–10 & 15–17) are intent on breaking conventions of gender and culture. Opening weekend in the Studio Theater, Mike “Majinn” O’Neal creates a kinetic dialogue between outside opinion and his knowledge of himself in Your Thoughts, My Reality, and Susan Lieu’s 140 Pounds”traces the connection between her own self-image and the death of her mother. In the upstairs theater, Angel “Moonyeka” Alviar-Langley combines spoken word, projections, and movement to examine the fallacy of post-racial America, while Elby Brosch has made another in a fascinating series of duets with Shane Donohue, this time exploring trans and cis masculinity leading to a very unexpected ending in Falling Short.

The second weekend starts downstairs with a deep dive into femme style with Malicious Allure, and another kind of diving in ocean can’t swim [part 1] by spoken-word artist Boon, who is literally covered in his text as he tells a long, looping story full of contrasts (“I move like my limbs are glass antiques, I move like my movements aren’t worth very much.”). There’s even more dance upstairs, with new work from emerging artists Alicia Mullikin and Au Collective’s Fausto Rivera and Cheryl Delostrinos. Mullikin’s Reina is a passionate evocation of her grandmother and the queenliness in women of color. Rivera and Delostrinos also work with multi-generational imagery in Tequila con miel y limón as they criss-cross the space in extra-high-energy waves. And NWNW veteran Rainbow Fletcher, who is a past master of small-space choreography, fills the stage with her Hypernova company in Eleven Eleven, a “high-energy meditation on coincidence.”

Mike “Majinn” O’Neal performs at Northwest New Works Festival. Photo courtesy On the Boards

Mike “Majinn” O’Neal performs at Northwest New Works Festival. Photo courtesy On the Boards

The Seattle International Dance Festival (June 7–23) overlaps with NWNW, but then, like the Energizer Bunny, it just keeps going and going. With programming at multiple venues and several different themes, producer Cyrus Khambatta is trying to bring local audiences a sample of the world while creating opportunities for local artists.

Along with all the programming from Europe and Asia and spotlights on contemporary ballet and Seattle artists, Khambatta’s developed an innovative James Ray Residency Project, which offers choreographers a chance to develop their marketing and communication skills while making new dances. With a grant from the Raynier Foundation, the program includes both nuts-and-bolts time in the studio and sessions with nonprofit consultants to help with development and branding. Artists were chosen last summer, and over the course of the year they’ve been encouraged to think deeply about their overall artistic vision and mission, crafting those ideas just as they might craft movement phrases for a dance work.

The participants in this inaugural group have been amazed at the process, which is much more comprehensive than most other programs. Colemxn Pester used the studio time to create a distilled version of their recent Pylon III, and feels that the work refining the language they use to discuss their choreography was almost as important anything else when it comes to finding support for their career. For Daniel Costa, the residency supported the development of music and movement for his upcoming work, Interposition: Movement II, while the consultant sessions resulted in him creating flyers and business cards that represented his aesthetic. Version Excursion choreographer Erin Nichole Boyt agrees that the program offers a deeper experience than other residencies. “It fills in the gaps that others don’t,” she says. “Creatively, this is something I was planning to do on my own, but I didn’t really have the bandwidth to do [all of it] alone.”

Former PNB principal dancer Julie Tobiason was already familiar with the business end of dance life, running the Seattle dance project with fellow PNB dancer Tim Lynch post-retirement, but the James Ray Residency has given her time to find an artistic balance between choreography and administration. The fifth and final choreographer, Natasha Greenwalt has spent the time developing Post-Ballet, an ambitious modern examination of the ballet classic Swan Lake.

All the resident artists’ work will be onstage at SIDF. Khambatta’s goal for this program is to help them use their ingenuity to support themselves in the long term since “that’s the currency they have the most of.” With that kind of support, every month on the dance calendar could be as full as this June’s.

Seattle International Dance Festival

June 7–23 | Various venues | $25–$135 |

Northwest New Works

June 8–10 & 15–17 | On the Boards | $16–$34 |