Dance Off #2! Jan 29, 2011

by Eric Pitsenbarger

Did I go home and sleep last night? Time is jello because here I am in my same front row seat and am seeing the same people. It's a bit of a social scene here for A.W.A.R.D show #2 with everyone milling about, having casual conversation. Lights out, show time, people sit. "So You Think You Can Dance" Seattle style, night number two.

I see that once again, tonight's first presentation: tEEth, is now a finalist. Can I go ahead and say it? The cross-platform, multi-media acrobatics impress this audience. The theme of interpersonal dynamic resonates. That's two now with similar, skewed usage of camera work and theatrical elements to further the effect. Two pieces with the performers barking, miming angst and literally chewing on each other's face. What did Zoe say last night? People are animals. Seattle likes it rough!

There is a sense of discovery as we, sitting in darkness try to figure out what's going on and how it all connects. On a big screen two faces blink in harsh white light, light similar in strength to what's emanating from that pregnant bubble moving around underneath the cloud of material. There's someone under there! On the screen, camera pans over body parts, fingers gripping skin, legs and arms...oh wow! It's a live feed from under the sheet; and right about the time I make the connection the bubble grows and is stretched with silhouetted figures reaching, walking, embracing. Strangely intimate and simultaneously abstract the figures emerge to form spiraling patterns, their faces projecting emotion, mouths screaming, eyes yearning; in turn intermingling and then mangling each other. Loudly pointing fingers, gently massaging faces then feigning disgust...barring tEEth. The tiny war is illustrated in stark contrast to lifting angelic voices performed live by the two stoic vocalists at stage's edge. The music is exquisite and sweet. Heavenly, idyllic. Forcing the violence of what we're witnessing between the couple seem all the more ironic.

Whew! Take a breath...fighting's over. Taking notes in hushed silence along with the rest of the stunned audience.

Light's up and we're face first in what seems like an insane asylum with a sylph punk butoh prom queen laughing / crying...beating her bloody, bandaged chest, thrashing Worhol white hair. Fellow inmates with similar glam crazy rock chick straight jacket accouterments run laps around and around; breathing heavy, heaving chests, ribs poking out, fists beating, raccoon eyes glaring...all to appropriately growling, discordant guitar and drum banging played by zombie boyfriends at the back of the stage. It's like the "In Living Color" dancers all went bonkers and turned into necrophiliacs. Dare I say it: Not my favorite.

OMG it's over. I've already filled out my response card. Staring into nothing. My eyes hurt. Turning pages of the program I see that we have some Frideric Handel represented. a calming warm bath. But then I stop myself and think: this could be a cruel trick. This is Seattle, I'm at OTB. This is the Barnum and Bailey of performance nights. These chairs need seat-belts.

Sure enough! Handel is only the foil for a surreal exercise in genre bending. Phrases of music ignited by programmed keys on a prop piano, shiny fresh faced athletic young dancers prancing about in Disney lederhosen. Coupling and swinging about; flying, floating, skipping, jiggling and twitching. Blank faces with just the ever-so-subtle smirk at the edges of tight mouths. Determined and earnest, the troupe of tyrolian nut-balls mash-up lilting arms and hopping feet with rolling hips and squiggly feet. Accompanied by aria singing Bo-Peep who is in turn coaxed to join in the overt silly mayhem, then sexually threatened by oh-so-serious faced maiden. Traditional gestures and echos of recognizable motifs thrown into a bag and shaken in kattywompus abandon. Hysterical and fun.  Definite crowd pleaser, but as I've been told...funny doesn't win.  What's wrong with that!?

A palpable hush descends: Waxie Mooooooooooon!

Statuesque, glamorous, garish, seductive and intimidating all at once, Waxie maneuvers the large stage in two or three long legged swipes. It's a 'strip show'...but is it really? The pain / pleasure threshold animated across his flashing eyes, hands quavering, gripping, delicate and forceful...the dark faux Edwardian tunic comes off in a glittery tumble revealing bone white skin and obvious hairy male form. A man shoving feminine wiles like arrows right over your head to the back row. The 'disconnect' is the act. The moment between question and answer, the blending and the artifice rendering 'normal' into new material.

Waxie has three short segments. The second is my favorite: a filmed pantomime mourning stroll in impossible heels over riverside rocks, with a tag-along dog observing and following. In the Q and A it was revealed that the dog was an unplanned (and delightful), addition. Very funny. Then with Beyonce belting of all things, my personal theme song 'Halo', Waxie floats on stage in an either of golden silk. "A tribute to Isadora Duncan" was only the beginning. He illustrates the song with such sweet and effecting feeling. Tears come and the aura of beauty and love emanate from his reaching hands and shining moon beam eyes.

Woah...another night, another amazing rocket ship ride to the outer reaches of Seattle's performance galaxy.