I don't understand why dance companies don't coordinate their schedules better—for months, next to nothing will happen, then BAM! Everything's happening all at once: Amelia Reeber's new show, this is a forgery; Lingo dancetheater's new show A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light; a night of Butoh improvisation by Danse Perdue; the final week of rehearsals before Cabaret de Curiosités at the Seattle Erotic Art Festival; and even West by "Awesome" at On the Boards. (The latter isn't dance, strictly speaking—despite a long Butoh-style walk by a hooded figure between undulating packing crates—but On the Boards is the city's dance-centric theater, and its shows are required viewing for dance geeks. Click here for David Schmader's full review of West.)
Reeber's solo show begins with the facts of life: a video projection of a gray planet spinning in the dark, then a mass of animated spermatozoa rushing down a tube, each hoping to be the first to bang its head against the great, gray orb. As one of them succeeds, a subtitle says "damn it!" and the lights come up on Reeber, lying placidly on her back, her legs in the air. Whose accidental conception are we watching? Reeber's? A child of Reeber's? The dance itself? Maybe looking for allegories isn't the way to go—forgery is relentlessly abstract.
Reeber says she's only fixed five minutes of this hour-long dance, but the stage pictures are coherent: video of a giant cat coming and going, or just sitting; video of Reeber in a Cub Scout uniform, looking happier than she does onstage; an anchor on the floor, surrounded by rocks; small golden pyramids and step-pyramids upstage; some lower halves of mannequins suspended by chains. Reeber gently twirls and spins in a small black dress, frolicking like a Greek nymph (or Isadora Duncan). Even at her harshest, when she lurches around pigeon-toed and angular with frozen joints, she still seems pliant and rounded—a creature made of Tinkertoys, not an Erector Set. The whole of forgery is soft and pleasant to watch, but few shards of it lodge themselves in the memory.
A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light makes better on its promise for skin and light than for hope. A modern-dance masque in ACT's subterranean purple cabaret room, Glimmer follows the arc of a party of the Eyes Wide Shut sort: some drunkenness, some nudity, and some moody rock 'n' roll. Choreographer KT Niehoff sings during the proceedings with the band Ivory in Ice World, kicking her bare legs (and strappy, expensive-looking shoes) to the drumbeat. The audience sits at tables or leans against the pillars and walls, watching the dance happen around them: writhing, sexual duets from principals wearing white gutter-glam costumes while a dozen extras in frilly blue watch, wander, and preen.
Niehoff has spent years exploring and aestheticizing social situations for dance performances: a dinner party (at which she served actual dinner), a regular party (in which it was sometimes difficult to tell the performers from the audience), and now a sort of glam-rock ball where some dancers walk around flirting with the audience while others undulate up and down the stairs. But unlike her earlier efforts, Glimmer has a chilliness—maybe because of the formalism of ACT Theatre, or maybe because the line between participant and spectator was sharper (the costumes more obvious, the audience doing nothing but watching) and therefore more forbidding. Principals Bianca Cabrera and Michael Rioux gave notably strong performances, with heat in their movement and fire in their limbs. But for all of Glimmer's pageantry, it felt like something stuck behind glass.
While Glimmer pretended to be a rock 'n' roll party, Hipster Death was one. The musicians and dancers would've loved the audience to tear the joint apart—if only they'd had the audience. Four goth-rock and noise bands played at the Mix in Georgetown (a medium-sized concrete room dolled up with a little wood for the bar and balcony), and performers from Danse Perdue improvised during a few sets. Dancers Alex Ruhe and Vanessa Skantze coated themselves in white makeup, donned white robes, and laced the stage and concrete floor with strings and bundles of white fabric, a mess of snowy intestines. Joy Von Spain of the 100 Pieces shrieked out her She Slicing She: A Fury Opera (sounds like: a Diamanda Galás impersonator accompanied by an electrical storm), while Ruhe and Skantze staggered and curled around each other, rolling their eyes back in their heads and grimacing. The audience—mostly made up of the other bands (Dark Matter, Stabbings, Caligula Cartel)—leaned against the walls and watched reverently. They were a church in search of a congregation.
This weekend, at the Seattle Erotic Art Festival, director Roger Benington, Stranger Genius Award–winning designer Jennifer Zeyl, and a pack of burlesque dancers (Waxie Moon, Inga Ingénue, Indigo Blue, Pantera, et al.) will present Cabaret de Curiosités. Paula the Swedish Housewife plays the hostess of a Parisian cabaret who mails a cabinet full of sexy persons to her nephew. (Isn't that illegal?)
A prediction: The burlesque will be more narrative than forgery, more saucy than Glimmer, and better attended than Hipster Death—but not necessarily better than any of them.