I’m a sucker for a pair of good legs, strong from the heel to that delicious crease where thigh meets butt. Some of the six pieces in Coriolis Dance Collective’s Co-LAB 5 call attention to the uniquely beautiful musculature of the human gam—in combination with Coriolis’s fabulous dancers and eclectic bucket of choreographic works, I had myself a damn good time.
Coriolis has earned some significant dance-scene stripes in their five-year existence, using their growing influence and funding (The A.W.A.R.D. Show! at On the Boards, grants from the state arts commission and city office for cultural affairs, etc.) to support some of Seattle’s finest young dancers and choreographers. Watching Coriolis is a fine way to get a grasp on the dance talent that is consistently emerging under our very noses.
Co-LAB 5 is a group of six works from both well-known and newer choreographers. Deciduous Urge, by Rainbow Fletcher of Can Can Castaways fame, is creepy, smart, and full of attitude. Dancers wearing tight black underwear, white button-up shirts, and black balaclavas move with such pointed deliberation that they seem to be thrusting limbs and gazes directly at the audience. Disembodied legs extend, jerk, and pounce in sharp yet graceful movements and acrobatic exchanges of body weight. Elastic armbands connected by long leashes create a sort of harness between pairs of dancers, forcing them to rely on each other to complete every individual movement. This continued physical and emotional balance, combined with the anonymity of the costumes, minimizes the gender roles common to partnered choreography and replaces it with an intelligent and steamy exploration of sex and power.
Zoe Scofield’s when we were young II explodes with the same intensity, the four dancers marked with mudlike paint and serious, sometimes pained facial expressions. A mix of music includes a repeated Bach concerto mixed with angry helicopter sounds, the switch between the two echoed by expanding and contracting torsos. Dancers spend as much time on the ground as they do upright, moving quickly across the stage on their backs and sides, rolling and slithering as if they’re trying to break free of something. (Youth, maybe, given the title?) When we were young is serious bordering on funereal, but at the same time is—like much of Scofield’s work—a deep and powerful reminder of how kick-ass it is to have a human body.
The other pieces in Co-LAB are less memorable and perhaps need additional development or introspection. Some of the dancers seem to hold back passion and excitement for some of the choreography, but it’s unclear whether that’s intentional or if they simply like some of the works more than others. Real Gone, choreographed by Lauren Edson of the Trey McIntyre Project, is charming and groovy, even if the theme of disillusioned 1950s housewives in bored distress has been overdone. An excerpt from Tethered Apparitions by Coriolis co–artistic director Natascha Greenwalt Murphy was intriguing but way too short—it could have been a highlight of the evening if presented as more than a snippet.
The idea behind The gentle abduction of Esther Williams, a collaboration between co–artistic director Christin Call and musical collaborator Jackie An, had a promising description in the program notes (“created by giving each other instructional scores that would help each other explore their current goals as artists”), but fell flat with film-projected, misspelled “inspirational” quotes and a disconnected monologue about time travel, existential frustration, and Mouseketeers. Even Call’s interesting combo of fairy-ish dancing, eerily fishlike contortions, and occasional whoops and moans could not distract enough from the disjointed presentation to make it comfortable to watch.
Andrea Larreta’s Depicting Verbs has the potential to make big artistic and social statements about dance without sound, but it seems like Larreta is holding back some depth that could give this piece more variety of movement and oomph—and I’m not sure why. She’s an accomplished, spirited dancer with an obvious passion and dedication to the art and to the study of sign language, but that liveliness and intensity doesn’t show in the piece. Does it have something to do with the caveat in the program notes: “This piece is not about Deaf Culture”? Is there something socially fragile in making art about deafness that requires these caveats? Maybe, or perhaps this is just a new piece, freshly conceived in the cooperative dance womb, that will take shape as time goes on. Either way, I hope Verbs promises something brave and beautiful for the future.