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'For Whom The Dance Toils'

Seattle Dance Project 3

by Dean Speer

31 January 2010 -- ACT Theatre, Seattle

Anyone who has ever put on a major event of any kind or produced a work of art or a book already knows how much work it is. Seattle Dance Project directors Julie Tobiason and Timothy Lynch have the courage, energy, and vision to not only put their shows together – and sometimes to dance in them – but also to tackle the next two-thirds leg of the work, which is to promote them. This kind of artistic ambience gives organizations the fire to sustain and institutionalize themselves – being so necessary to longevity and growth.

Seattle Dance Project was back for a third season with the Central Heating Lab at ACT, and I got to catch their matinee on the January 31. Project 3 was a showcase of new works for the Northwest dance scene, featuring works by choreographers Edwaard Liang (former soloist, NYCB), Kent Stowell (founder and former director of Pacific Northwest Ballet), and Mark Haim (Seattle premiere). In addition, Seattle Dance Project’s rock and roll-inspired collaborations with Simple Measures (choreographed by James Canfield, director of Nevada Ballet Theatre/founder and former director of Oregon Ballet Theatre, and Betsy Cooper, Director of University of Washington dance department) were given well-deserved second viewings.

Cooper also danced in the first work, etching into our minds the clarity and deep feeling of her dancing and beautiful technique. First made in 2009 for “Chop Shop: Bodies of Work,” an annual modern dance festival, “No More Sweet Hours of Rapture” by Mark Haim to an aria from Mozart’s “Magic Flute,” was bittersweet in tone and set at a walking tempo.

From classic opera to classic rock-n-roll with Cooper’s choreographic entry, “In Another Land” – aptly named, was followed after intermission by another rock-n-roll work, “Because,” made by James Canfield especially for Seattle Dance Project. I liked both works, but each suffered a bit from the unfortunate juxtaposition of being programmed next to works that were similar in palette. Programming is tough – you want to have a program that flows and compliments, yet it’s critical that work also compare and contrast. Having two rock dances was not fair to either; it made them each less effective.

It was refreshing seeing classic Kent Stowell choreography again – this time his new “B6” set to music of one of his favorite composers, Seattleite William Bolcom. Essentially patterned after the structure of a traditional pas de deux (entrance, duet, male solo, female solo, coda), I found myself wanting more as Stowell gave us the first two, but not the finish the piece set us up for. Perhaps they ran out of time or something, but my only suggestion would be for him to add more!

By “classic Kent Stowell,” I mean a piece that moves well, is very kinetic (you would not believe how many dances are dull, in this respect), and which logically builds on movement motifs that are easy and fun to follow. He also knows how to develop his ideas and not just give us boring repetitions or too simple development.

The program concluded with the premiere of Edwaard Liang’s “To Converse Too,” set to selections of Bach’s Suites for solo ‘cello – a charming work that would have greatly benefitted from live music.

Many persons have come together to support Seattle Dance Project, and it’s exciting to see this relatively new artistic endeavor begin to find its toddler feet and go and grow. Each of the beautiful and dedicated dancers – Timothy Lynch, Betsy Cooper, Susan Gladstone, Oleg Gorboulev, Kory Perigo, Michele Curtis, and Joseph Anderson – richly deserve hardy applause, as do SDP founders, Tobiason and Lynch. I very much look forward to its future offerings and can hardly wait until Seattle Dance Project completely matures as an organization and reaps the rewards it fully deserves.

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