Come Clean
LeGendre Performance at On the Boards, 217-9888. This weekend only.

In my mind, I've started calling it New Seattle Dance. The vast and unfettered movement vocabulary; captured group improvisation; mixture of acting and dancing; humor; every inch of the stage in use; dancers with personalities; unabashed emotional transports. Not every dance has every element, of course, but I'm getting a feeling for them, these driven women (mostly women) with their startlingly good posture and their notebooks full of words and squiggles. Thirty years from now, people are going to ask us what it was like in the early golden era of New Seattle Dance, mark my words. And if it's an era, Amii LeGendre stands right at the center.

Molt, a quartet, explores with an almost mathematical fervor all possible interactions among the dancers. Only four dancers--how complicated could it get? Well, all four can do the same thing, which almost never happens; three do the same thing and one does something different--oh, but wait, it's not the exact same thing, only similar--oops, the fourth one started doing the same thing as the second one, but now the first and the third are mirroring--wait, stop, this is way too complicated, could you start over? I'm making fun of my own incapacity here, but the fact is that nobody gets bored at a LeGendre dance. There's a restless geometry at work, and LeGendre uses every one of the possible 360 degrees of orientation. (I wish Seattle had the custom, as St. Louis did in my childhood, of dancing one of the shorter pieces over as an encore; watching the same dance twice, you see completely new things.)

Salvation--well, for Salvation read Molt, only more so. With so many more dancers to keep track of, I'm in spectator overdrive. Lifts to die for. Amoeba-like confluences and retractions. Snap, the dancers clamp into and out of a formation before I can take it in, shimmering, bending, twisting, vagrant. Lush. Endlessly inventive. Oh, and the ending: They say, "Thank you." Beautiful words.

As long as I'm confessing incapacities, I may as well admit that I don't get story dance. I try to keep an open mind, but honestly, if I never see another dancer mime, "Give me the butter knife, ah, the precious butter knife," I won't feel sad. I like morsels of story stirred into dance, especially mysterious morsels, especially funny morsels, but if I really want a story, beginning middle end, I read a book. So when I heard that Hatch was a story dance, I was apprehensive.

I needn't have worried. Here's the story: Two women create a child by parthenogenesis. But the dance is about the characters' feelings, and those feelings are both fascinatingly specific and reassuringly universal. Hatch deals directly with what Freudians call "maternal narcissism," the mother's inability to tell where she leaves off and the baby begins. The dance suggests this same blurring of boundaries between the lovers long before the baby. With the pregnancy, the pregnant one is still joined, just to a different being. But the one who's not carrying a baby is cut off and has no substitute. You don't have to be involved in a lesbian version of the Immaculate Conception for this to make compelling emotional sense. And the heads--watch the dancers repeatedly cradling each other's heads, pushing them, pulling them; watch and think about the solemn and hilarious moment when the baby crowns. And watch the dancers pair off, wrap their arms around each other, and lean inward, shuffling in sweet tribute to the only kind of dancing we non-dancers do.

In general, New Seattle Dance is not extremely musical. Many times scores are written in parallel with the dance or applied afterward; soundscape and found sound are more common than conventional melody. I'm not complaining; dance created on or for music is only one kind of dance. But in this suite, LeGendre has chosen to choreograph very explicitly on existing scores by Ryuichi Sakamoto, a composer whose rich, luscious work she has used before. I couldn't help noticing the emotional power of dance driven deep into the spectator's body by matching music. In other words, sitting cross-legged on the floor in the rehearsal hall, in my eyes, those were tears.