Theater archives

Scraps of Story


Seattle’s 33 Fainting Spells, whose Dirty Work clutters the Performing Garage through July 21, are three women who refuse to commit themselves to coherent narrative. Their 80-minute piece substitutes attitude for substance. Beat by beat some of this is engrossing (as when Peggy Piacenza flashes a lighter with big arm gestures), but one begins to lust after hooks on which to hang impressions. The eye and the mind seek resolution and never find it, save in the echoing square shapes of three portable projection screens on which video images of the artists are projected.

Dayna Hanson, a rangy blond in a satin tuxedo shirt and tan trousers, stalks the stage as the audience enters, cleaning up and listening to LPs. Where are we? Is this a living space, a dressing room, rehab? The two women who enter—are they her roommates? Colleagues? We never get a clue. Like the scattered junk—a cot, card tables, an exercise bike, trampled Tab cans—that fills the stage, the soundtrack is an elusive collage of jazz and pop fragments leavened with Bartók, issuing from a trio of old portable phonographs or just from the air. The three performers speak snippets of text by Chekhov, Bergman, John Osbourne, Laurence Olivier, and Tony Richardson into handheld microphones. Clothing, much of it sparkly, is layered as if by crazy people; after Gaelen Hanson’s initial turn as a barefoot ballerina naked under her unzipped tutu, the others simply hang the tutu, apron-like, over their clothes. The good dancing—barely stylized phrases derived from ordinary movement and go-go styles—seems almost an afterthought. —Elizabeth Zimmer

The third annual “E-Moves” season (Aaron Davis Hall, June) fulfilled its double intention with flair. On Program A, curator Felicia A. Swoope gave prominent dancers a forum for debut choreographies. Program B offered dance makers with a few years’ experience a significant platform. The resulting 10 works filled the theater with fierce, vibrant dancing. Some, like Jamie Philbert’s Sacred Wall, also told stories. Philbert’s powerful, lucid theatricality and fine performers traced a feminist/matriarchal history, from a Trinidadian granny to a Manhattan bag lady.

Ailey dancer Hope Boykin’s (a.e)xtreme= featured smart partnering—sinuous, prayerful, increasingly urgent. Boykin and partner Abdur-Rahim Jackson used Ailey’s overt physicality not for its showmanship, but to define character and develop narrative, in their illumination of two struggling, questing, mutually supportive souls.

Of many standout performances, three were particularly resonant. Sduduzo Ka-Mbili’s incandescent dancing highlighted his Izigqi Zezizwe (Rhyme of Nations), a quartet of ritual intensity, humor, spontaneity. Ka-Mbili seemed a man possessed, while Germaul Barnes’s joyous countenance lent a liturgical context to his In/Visible Gates. The fury of Ron Wood (Zen One)’s martial art/break dancing synthesis in his Reflex-ions blurred into optical illusion.

In a subtle series of swaying poses and gestures, Gabri Christa embodied a repose within which a fire burned in her Americana (on becoming an Americanized woman). She danced before an enlarged film projection, which magnified her movements amid images of the U.S. flag. Sharon Estacio’s Slant offered a more pedestrian presence, with a complex geometry of bodies and recurring duet work. Human touch carried a latent threat within caresses that might have been caregiving in this community of white-clad initiates. —Chris Dohse

In Wet Blue & Friends, Clare Byrne’s impish, Chaplin-esque expression was an extension of the language she spoke with her entire body (Dixon Place, June). When she was sad, her torso caved in as if she’d been punched in the sternum. Happy, she attenuated a developpé in second, arms reaching skyward, practically levitating with energy. Often she alternated big, bold phrases with perfectly still moments. Byrne mimed tasks with her upper body as her lower half independently coursed through a graceful dance phrase, and her doleful brown eyes sought us out, looking for affirmation or perhaps just company. That she found in Donna Bouthillier, Sarah Carlson, Theresa Palazzo (all with light auburn hair), and rubber-faced Ruben Ortiz, who swarmed around her, ignored her, or performed janitorial tasks with anomie. They moved to blues tunes like Aretha Franklin’s version of “Trouble in Mind,” loosely sketching a hard-luck story with scant detail. Still, the vulnerable Byrne was a new friend by evening’s end. —Susan Yung