January 14–16, 2011
Reviewed by Gigi Berardi
Photo: Andrew Bartee & Vincent Lopez in Olivier Wever's Monster. Photo by Kim & Adam Bamberg, courtesy Wevers.
For Whim W’Him’s second season, artistic director Olivier Wevers delivered an appealing mix of serious message and nimble, fluid movement. The company consists of dancers on loan from Spectrum Dance Theater (Ty Alexander Cheng, Kylie Lewallen, and Vincent Michael Lopez), Pacific Northwest Ballet (Chalnessa Eames, Andrew Bartee, Lucien Postlewaite, and Wevers), and Houston Ballet (Melody Herrera). The three-piece program, titled “Shadows, Raincoats, & Monsters,” used imaginative perspectives to create unpredictable and striking movement.
Monsters was perhaps the most provocative piece, with its rants on homophobia, addiction, and relationships. Wevers commissioned Seattle rap artist RA Scion to write lyrics woven into the musical soundtrack. The chilling poetry sets both mood and movement.
The piece consists of three duets, each packing an emotional punch: Bartee and Lopez’s poignant romp on society’s exclusiveness, Lewallen and Cheng’s grotesque statement on addiction, and Postlewaite and Herrera’s tender yet passive-aggressive partnering, replete with stylized violence. The dancers move like compasses in the stark, fluorescent lighting, supported by partners and etching with extended limbs the perimeter of some safe circle, beyond which they are seen as monsters.
Wevers’ This Is Not a Raincoat, features dramatic undercurves and overcurves alternating with a calm looseness. Dancers wear socks, as in Monsters, to allow them to scoot easily across the floor. The title is borrowed from the Magritte painting (ceci n’est pas une pipe) and conveys a similar image of the guarded self. Dancers walk en masse, raincoats rustling, shoulders retracting. At one point, the cluster unravels, and you can clearly see the individuals. Bartee never looked better, and all the dancers have a light, jaunty stance. In one fine moment, Eames (who is partnered by Cheng) gestures, suspended in mid-air, and the rest sympathetically respond with similar moves. In another telling passage, dancers move to a voice-over of neonatal and child-like sounds, finally building up to their fully revealed selves.
In Cylindrical Shadows, guest choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa presents breathy moves punctuated with classical riffs as emphasized in the pointe work of ballerinas Eames and Herrera. The contact improvisation–like movement, and especially the lifts, suggest something about the precariousness of life. Postlewaite and Herrera dance a reverential duet, before Postlewaite expires (alluding to a sudden-death incident, which inspired the piece).
These riveting dancers—and Wevers, who also dances in Shadows—are master storytellers. Together with Wevers’ newest pieces, this work proves that Whim W’Him has much to offer. No doubt the next stage in the company’s evolution will be a multi-program season, in part made possible with its new resident status at the Intiman.
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