It's March, it's our cold season, and even people who claim to love this weather are walking down the street with pinched expressions, like they've just smelled a fart. But look at us through the lens of KT Niehoff's two new dance films, and something forgotten emerges: In this environment, our bodies can shine. In Rain Beats Down, the dozen or so darkly clad dancers are framed against a silver sky, coldly beautiful with flat expressions as they move in triangular unison on the precipice of an unused stretch of highway over Lake Washington. The film's images are striking, with jump-cut cinematography, the muted colors of the natural setting, and fabulous costumes (including, scaly, reptilian creations by Ben DeLaCreme).
Niehoff and Collision Theory, her current project, will screen the films at an event called Dream Brain this Thursday, March 7, at Odd Fellows Hall. The event should be an intimate experience, in "a cabaret-like setting," with artists seated among the spectators. Collision Theory is a yearlong compilation of events exploring the boundaries of audience/artist interaction—retail-display-window dance theater, shows for one audience member at a time—that will climax with a performance at On the Boards this April.
Deeply embedded in Seattle dance culture for decades, Niehoff says she became disillusioned with live performance for its distance between artists and audience. Dance film, she explains, felt like another way to play with proximity, to control precisely what the audience sees and seat the artists with the audience. On one hand, this seems counterintuitive: Film is an extra layer of mediation between the artists and the audience. But Niehoff hopes that making the artists and the audience one unit, sitting together to watch the work and talk about it afterward, will create a new bond between them.
This may work, or it may not. Seattle audiences don't have a reputation for being the most interactive, and proximity alone does not guarantee a meaningful swap of ideas and reactions. And transforming audience input into creative dialogue requires a smaller, softer ego than most of us—artists or otherwise—possess.