Three cheers for The Three Yells super-creepy deconstruction of Giselle.
Three cheers for The Three Yells' super-creepy deconstruction of Giselle. Tim Summers

I know I said that attendance at NW New Works Festival 2016 was mandatory. And yet here I Slog before you, only having seen half of the weekend's shows. I know. I'm smh at myself. I mean, I'm the one who missed Gary Hill filling the studio space at On the Boards with enough wattage to make afterimages of the audience (3,000 watts!). I wanted to be an afterimage. MY LOSS.

I did, however, see the whole Mainstage Showcase. And if you're worse than me, that is, if you didn't go to any of the mandatory NWNW shows, then allow me to fill you in on at least the ones that got the mainstage treatment.

Mainstage Showcase

Giselle Deconstruct by The Three Yells

This Butoh-influenced take on Giselle reframes the popular ballet as a Buildungsroman from the perspective of the man-killing Wilis. A bunch of women in dirty gold gowns crawl out of Tupperware storage containers like baby snakes while heavy industrial music booms and screeches in the background. The women then hiss at each other, kiss occasionally, perform snake-like fights, and generally pubesce in a field of chest-shattering music before entering a cocoon phase.

One-line review: A hypnotizing and super-creepy display of powerful feminist #squadgoals that deconstructs and at times shows up ballet, as when the dancers slow-mo tip-toe off the stage with their hands outstretched like reptilian villains.

Brake Tender by David Harvey

This solo show takes its title from a specific type of train car called a "brake tender," a heavy car used only to make braking possible/easier, but clearly our dude has been growing through a bunch of breakups and is having some complicated feelings about it. Harvey dances in a silence occasionally punctuated by sensual love songs. He performs balancing acts, he sweeps himself off his own feet, and he turns his body into a clock. At one point, it looks like has no head for ~4 minutes. He gives his love unto the void. The void takes. He gives more.

One-line review: Nice 👏 lines 👏 with incredible displays of control in a subtly smart piece about the tension between loving loneliness and lonely loving that, at least in this stage of production, goes on a little too long.

Object by Janusphere Dance Company

Four childlike characters play with a giant, black, rectangular block and then entertain a schoolyard romance. Lots of choreography where dancers rely on each other's weight and seem to get stuck on each other, which creates a kind of perpetual motion machine out of bodies. When the block enters the stage seemingly out of nowhere, like the discovery of fire, this choreographic logic is applied to the block. Working thesis: We treat objects the way we treat each other.

One-line review: One of the dancers, Nikki Pfeiffer, moved her legs like insect antennae and carried the show for me.

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Falling and Being Caught by Megan Murphy

A quirky and whimsical live-reading / dance / theatrical thing about a woman named Alexa. "Alexa" seems to be a reference to a character in a novel, but, judging by the fact that Murphy constantly interrupts scenes by saying "stop Alexa," it's also maybe a reference to Amazon's Alexa? The show deconstructs itself as it goes along: Actors dance in front of video of those same actors rehearsing the dance, novels are read aloud, text messages about making the show are read aloud by the makers, etc.

One-line review: I think this dryly humorous show wants me to think about the constructed nature of Reality and Performance, but at this point in its life the the show feels a little too convoluted to say.