NWNW Weekend Two & Mainstage Showcase Jun 14, 2010

by Shango Los

Writing reviews at the behest of On the Boards usually means I see shows on the opening night. Due to some scheduling surprises, I ended up seeing the Mainstage Showcase on closing night. This was a really warm change. I forgot how festive the audience is, packed with artists from weekend one and how the staff is a bit more loose and fun. Sean Ryan was joyful and exasperated as he gave the final night’s appreciations. My companion and I had now heard them three times already and were able to chant his words to ourselves. (Real Networks, Tim Summers,  "Most ambitious season ever") The Mainstage sold out yet again to many congratulations all around. This NWNW Festival definitely has been the best marketed that I have personally seen and I expect that the response this year has set a whole new bar (for both audiences and performers) for the future.

The Offshore Project The Buffoon This was my first time catching the The Offshore Project but the buzz from my friends about what they can do was palpable. I was not disappointed. It was incredibly polished, well rehearsed and courageous. The presentation felt very much like a traditionally staged dance/movement narrative however the narrative was intentionally left very abstract. I say that with sincere positivity. Watching The Buffoon was like watching a really great foreign movie but without subtitles. It was visually striking, smart and a whole lot of laughs too. The live musicians added a great deal of warmth with piano, percussion, bass, cello and violin however it was the fantasic steampunk cum Victorian cum nouveau riche speakeasy costumes that really set the tone as some sort of classist, Mad Maxian power struggle. The choreography was rich and unexpected and very courageous in its self-referencing. This piece was a force of its own. I would love to see it extended into a full evening length piece. Lingo Embracing the Inevitable The universally respected KT Niehoff brings a newness and intrigue to whatever she touches. In this case, she works with Alia Swersky to create a seemingly post-apocalyptic romp through a detailed and ever evolving set of choreographic phrases. It reminded me a great deal of the original piano Goldberg Variations in that the piece took a closed set of choreographic vocabulary and then manipulated, spun and twisted the phases into constantly new yet familiar motions. From languid or isolated to festive and even Daft Punk robotic, the phrases shared a similarity but continued to feel new as they were constantly recontextualized. This pair are dancer’s dancers. Their technical proficiency was exciting, their focus inspiring and humility at the raging applause warm and familiar. Corrie Befort Cut Chalk The staging for this piece reminded me of a twelve step group meeting with folding chairs and bored and possibly strung out attendees. The piece slowly builds though and seemingly unrelated movement becomes syncopated and evolves into a really fun and informal exploration of handclaps and dancing. With the music ensemble providing a complex handclap rhythm section, the dancers opened up the choreography more dancing sometimes in very close proximity, interweaving and then shifting into more of a duet, each with their own percussionist. It was a lot of fun to watch and an obvious crowd pleaser. Laara Garcia/Pseudopod Interactive Sakura Rising This was the piece I was most looking forward to all weekend. Not really because I knew of any of the talented folks involved personally or even because I am a dance nerd but mostly because I am a spectacle nerd and I had heard that this was going to be one hell of a spectacle. I had not heard wrong. The stage had been transformed into a video game screen with live Street Fighter-like characters. Off to the side were a hipster type couple sitting at home drinking Rainier beer and flirting and futzing with the  “Sakura Rising” video game. As the fellow walked his friend maybe girlfriend though the game, the game play was fully acted out in video and live action on the stage. It was awesome and hysterical. While I am not a video gamer myself, I know enough about them to really appreciate the attention to detail in game play, screen menus and the usually hyperbolic statements of the fighting characters. The piece was packed with original staging, creative solutions to technology integration and humor. Heck, it even spoke to gender roles and technology. It was a great bit and I look forward to more coming from Laara Garcia whom I now head off to research. Thanks to all of the producers and performers for another excellent NWNW Festival. Thanks also to OTB for giving me an opportunity to participate in this small way.