The Odd Couple

A pair of episodic pieces makes for an uncertain evening in Slice.

Sharing a concert with another choreographer must be a little bit like moving in with a new roommate—even if you’re old friends, you’re still not sure what it’s like to live together. In Slice (through Sunday, June 26; 206-325-6500 or, their mutual evening at Velocity MainSpace Theater, Aiko Kinoshita and Cheronne Wong seem compatible enough, showing a pair of quintets with a shared taste in props and performers. In addition to these superficial likenesses, however, the two works have some deeper similarities in structure and movement vocabulary that give the program an odd, mirrored feeling.

It’s not really fair to describe Kinoshita’s “Remnants” as fractured and discontinuous since program notes cite it as “a selection of parts from a work in progress,” but it’s easy to see how those qualities could remain even in a complete production. The work opens with her dancers clustered on stacks of chairs in the corner of the stage, and they frequently return to that home base after forays into the wider space. This episodic structure tends to divide those adventures into discrete events, rather than emphasizing kinetic or narrative connections— it doesn’t always develop so much as simply continue.

Within those events, there is some beautiful dancing and dance making, especially for Ichiho Hayashi, who flashes through a series of leaps and turns like the valorous modern dancers of the early 20th century, when being airborne meant that you had done battle with gravity and won. There is a similar feeling of struggle in a long series of falls made for other dancers—first as a solo and then in a duet—where two performers face off like medieval knights, colliding and colliding again, until one of them succumbs to exhaustion, leaving the other still rising and crashing, over and over. Relationships like these come and go during the course of the work, as the dancers gradually unstack their chairs and set them up around the stage, but it’s unclear what might bring people together again or set them apart. For Kinoshita, a “remnant” is something that’s left after a departure—watching this dance, it seems that whoever left might have taken something fundamental with them.

In “The Waiting Room,” Cheronne Wong has gathered an eccentric assemblage of references and characters, loosely threaded together around the idea of a “metaphoric” place where you can think about the past and the future while the present is put on hold. Between the stools upholstered in sturdy pastel plastic and the video projection of a fish tank, though, this seems a much more literal environment, and the loopy behaviors that her cast wiggles through look a bit like someone turned up the nitrous oxide at the dentist’s. They practice the breaststroke while balanced on a stool and they jog back and forth, their feet skittering like a cat’s when it runs across a street. They recite dialogue that could be lifted from an art gallery reception: “It wasn’t about walls at all. It was about the cyclical nature . . . “

Wong has also made some stunning phrases for Hayashi, whose vertical jump is so light and unexpected that he seems to levitate onto a stool rather than use bone and sinew to push off the ground. He looks the most like a feline as he scuttles around the space rearranging the furniture. But despite all the cheerful non sequiturs, as well as some solid compositional pictures, this piece, too, feels more like a collection than a sequence of events.

Both works in Slice seem to be cut into bite-sized pieces, leaving us with a handful of vivid snapshots rather than an interconnected narrative. We can, of course, put those pieces together ourselves, but it would be great to have an instruction book.