Whim W’Him’s seven company dancers stand in a rough semi-circle, panting and staring up at French choreographer Manuel Vignoulle with raised eyebrows. “I need you to be able to do this three times without stopping!” he says. It won’t be easy—Vignoulle’s RIPple efFECT, one of three pieces presented in this weekend’s X-POSED—is so physically demanding that even this group of highly-trained and capable artists look daunted.
RIPple is dark and at times disturbing to watch, beginning with the twitchy movements of scared robot-like creatures who both embrace and resist each other’s movements as they move through nearly impossibly-timed choreography. In one section, the dancers have four counts to pull themselves up from a reclining position to the tips of their toes and then execute a quick series of steps that look like a combination of Janet Jackson moves and balletic leaps. The dancers execute the movements on time and then move diagonally in a group toward the back of the stage, synchronized and quiet, nailing the sub-human effect to a freaky perfection.
Whim W’Him is the 2009 creation of former Pacific Northwest Ballet prinicipal dancer Olivier Wevers, and for its short time in the Seattle dance scene it’s made quite an impression on local arts culture. Whim W’Him’s dancers come from varied backgrounds, from career classical ballet dancers to a “late-bloomer” who didn’t start dancing until college, to a member of the local burlesque troupe Can Can Castaways. Yet Wevers’s work combines a polished ballet aesthetic with—in this case—stark and haunting themes that utilizes the unbounded limits of contemporary dance to make really interesting stuff.
Wever’s piece in the X-POSED program, Alone is the Devil, explores the temptations of the seven deadly sins centering set to the music of Christopher Rouse. While literal, Wevers’ piece avoids that corny trap that many themed works fall into by letting the emotion of the dancers’ movements tell the story instead of overly illustrative or mimed choreography. Local chorographer Kate Wallich’s new piece, Black Heart, (represented in the program as a black heart emoticon) uses methodical and sharp movements to balance out the chaotic music from composer Aaron Otheim.