Love, Darkness, Light and Loathing Jun 10, 2012

by Shannon Stewart

Last night I dashed from the Marriage Equality Gala at the Convention Cetner to OTB to take in the Mainstage show, effectively missing my opportunity to see Ron Reagan Jr (a ballet dancer!) speak on behalf of the fight to defend marriage equality in Washington State in order to take in the new works of Hand2Mouth, Mike Pham, Sara Edwards, and Kate Wallich.

Especially because the first piece, Something’s Got Ahold Of My Heart, was explicitly all about love, this lens of looking at the personal, the political, the societal perspective on who, how, and when someone gets to love could easily skew my experience of the whole night. 

But that might be taking my role as audience member a bit too far.  The fact of the matter is that the show is rich and varied.  The theater is good, the performance art is good, the singing is out of this world and the dancing is ferocious.

Don’t miss it!  I’m off to glimpse KT’s installation and hope to come back with a more substantive review later.

(Some Hours Later)

Now for some writing with less of a political agenda:

Hand2Mouth’s latest work, a rock opera inspired by “too many hours spent watching videos of Kenny Rogers and Whitney Houston took a tour through different incarnations of love in friendship, co-dependence, and romance set against oversized fit balls stuffed between parallel bars made of PVC pipe (you do the work on the metaphor) with a house band (complete with an “air” drummer) that rolled on and around the stage.  Each one of the members of Hand2Mouth have their own distinct presence on stage but singer Erin Leddy (whom I fell in artist love with in My Mind Is An Open Meadow) and Julie Hammond stand out for me.  I like this excerpt as a tip of a larger iceberg and left wishing I could see the full version to see how far they went with developing the scenarios and roller coaster rides of the situations we call “love.”

I saw ACT I & II of Mike Pham’s Hamlet-text-on-a-screen-while-a-shadowy-figure-lurks-in-the-room-with-you-like-a-bat-in-a-cave at Velocity Dance Center’s Next Fest NW and was happy to experience three more acts and the finale in a theater where dark actually feels dark.  Pham projects the familiar siloloquy “to be or not to be” while using sparse, often strobe lighting to catch glimpses of his movement --alternately meditative pacing and whirling dervish explosions.

I enjoyed the familiarity of reading the words of Hamlet (I’ve never actually seen it performed live), with Pham’s alterations of rhythm and emphasis.  I liked the “not knowing” and “not seeing” half of what was happening with his choreography, just getting the essence of his movement through an abstracted flash of it, but admittedly stopped paying as close of attention the last three of four minutes.  The song during Act IV (I believe) See that My Grave is Kept Clean by Diamanda Galas, was heart wrenchingly beautiful.

After 20 minutes of the most breathtakingly simple and beautiful choral performance in honor of Walt Whitman, Sara Edwards informed me that the video element of The Public Road malfunctioned and was missing in their performance. To which I can only reply, There was simply nothing missing from their performance.  Not only was the harmonizing sublime and the soloists amazing, but I could have watched their bare feet softly stomping and their diaphragms sharply rising and falling for hours.

Closing out the evening was Kate Wallich and Crew, an ensemble name that points to the vocabulary of dub step crews that her choreography is infused with.  Layered in is Gaga technique (, as an elastic holding it together.  With time, this combination is becoming more her own than the sum of its parts.

The scene begins with the crew standing with feet firmly rooted in a wide masculine stance while they appear to ride an imaginary electric bull in slow motion that is then sped up and slowed down.  [Actually the piece begins with a video, but I ended up regarding the video as a separate entity—I didn’t find it informing what was unfolding on the stage. . . maybe it wasn’t meant to, I’m not sure]. POST NOTE - I found out the video was not completely working for the night's performance I went to!  So it wasn't just missing something in my mind, it was actually missing!

From here forward, a series of somewhat aggressive, violent, and competitive movement vignettes unfold (holding dancer Erica Badgely 8 feet in the air and then letting her drop to the ground, walking back and forth militaristically in a line that accumulates animal-like scuffling, exquisitely danced solos and duets with the Gaga signature chin jutted forward, knees angling to disturbing degrees of misalignment) all seeming to point to a theme of extreme posturing.  The dance offs give way to the dancers creating a walking radar pattern and ultimately abandoning Lavinia Vago in a decomposing solo at which point a video of Kate floating in a milky turquoise pool completely took my focus.   One thing is for sure. These dancers are strong and a pleasure to watch.

Today, I was one of the lucky few to take in the luscious signature movement of KT Niehoff performed by Sarah Lustbader, Molly Sides, Sean Tomerlin, Markeith Wiley, and Emily Sferra on five large platforms constructed amongst the chairs of the mains space with Ivory and KT lulling the audience through their operatic installation.  Not one for spoiling, I leave this one for you to experience.