Whim W’Him’s Approaching Ecstasy: A Feast for the Senses

Dance Review, Entertainment Review

This was the first show at my favorite Seattle based dance company where I have not been able to go get a preview of some part of it by attending a rehearsal.  This was an exciting and new experience where I had no idea what was waiting for me behind the curtain of the Cornish Theatre, but with the entire show being one piece created by the Maestro, Artistic Director, Olivier Wevers, I was extremely amped to see what he created this time around.

As I took my seat, I opened my program to read the Choreographer’s notes, and was highly intrigued to read that Mr. Wevers was inspired by the poetry of Constantine Cavafy, a Greek closeted gay poet who lived in early 1900s Egypt. To quote Mr. Wevers, ” …hiding shamefully under a business suit.  Repressed, tormented and frustrated, he evaded his reality with poetry.  His exquisitely arranged words still resonate true today, and are as relevant as ever.”

How would Mr. Wevers interpret the poetry?  It was clear there was going to be live music on stage, of which I was suuuuper excited about because it was all strings, and I love me a string quartet! But there was also a list of esoterics with a chorus master listed, so would we get live singing as well??!?!?  So many questions!

And I would get my answers quickly after the lights faded and the curtain rose.  The music that came from the string quartet was hauntingly melodic.  As always, the lighting by Michael Mazzola set an ominous glow where, two by two, under the golden wash, the Esoterics entered the stage to take their places in two rows of chairs, set just past the wings on stage, to leave the floor wide open for the wonderful Whim W’Him dancers to do what they do best.

Most of the dancers shared the same costume as the Esoterics, the business suit which Constantine Cavafy hid within, complete with bowler hats, reminding me of Magritte’s The Son of Man painting.  From my seat in the 3rd row, I found it tough to make out the faces of the dances, as the hats, and Mr. Mazzola’s brilliant lighting created an anonymity amongst the dancers that I fould beautiful and frustrating at the same time.  The one clear vision, shining bright as the star she is, was Ms. Tory Peil who came leaping ontothe stage in a gorgeous costume of a bustled short dress made primarily out of neckties!  0007-Bamberg-Fine-Art-AE17Dress-X2.jpgThe light on her was so crisp and clear, and was a lovely contrast to the blur of businessmen surrounding her on stage.

338-Bamberg-Fine-Art-AE17Dress-X2.jpgThe Esoterics sang parts of Cavafy’s poetry throughout the piece, sometimes from their chairs, sometimes joining the dancers on stage.  I will say, I didn’t enjoy when they came on stage so much, as I found it more distracting than anything.  They were often blocking my ability to see the choreography, and I hated missing even a minute of the beautiful movement Mr. Wevers created.  I also didn’t find the singers to react well in the scenes where the dancers interacted with them, which again, distracted me from watching the nuances of the dancers.  I think it was more about where I was sitting, though, as I had friends with me who sat on the other side of the stage and said they didn’t find the singers distracting at all, and never had their view of the dancers blocked.  Not sure if this frustration was part of Mr. Wevers’ vision, in staging the way he did where only part of the audience could see certain parts to mirror Cavafy’s dual life where he hid parts of himself from the world.  Either way, I just hated missing any part of the dance, so for me, the singers needed to keep their lovely voices in the chairs on the side of the stage so I could watch the dancers dance.

And let’s get to these dancers, shall we?  Each dancer transitioned from phrase to phrase180-Bamberg-Fine-Art-AE17Dress-S effortlessly, telling the tales of this heartbreaking poetry.  Liane Aung, with her amazing lines, and those breathtaking feet dazzled me as she always does.  Mia Monteabaro danced a stunning pas de deux with Ms. Aung that was both sensual and joyful, and together these women ignited the hope portion of the program.  You couldn’t help but smile watching that part of the program.  And that duet was a striking contrast to my favorite part of the show which was a pas de deux with Patrick Kilbane and Karl Watson dancing on either side of a mirror that was so 0002-Bamberg-Fine-Art-AE17Dress-S.jpghauntingly tranced, that I feared blinking in case I missed one moment.  Mr. Kilbane, facing the audience, Mr. Watson, dancing his reflection, these two men are not even remotely built the same, however, somehow, the movement was so mesmerizing that I was able to 100% suspend my disbelief and got lost in Mr. Kilbane anxiously exploring his reflection, trying desperately to figure out who he is, addressing his facade, and it was absolutely gorgeous.

The rest of this show had the dancers transitioning between their suits to white underwear and tank tops, and in stripping the dancers down, the scenes danced in that attire perfectly matched the poetry exposing Cavafy’s struggle in his own skin.  The moments of freedom Mr. Wevers created, of sheer abandon and joy, and then just as quickly the dancers were trussed back up in their suits, hiding from who they truly are and it broke my heart.

0008-Bamberg-Fine-Art-AE17Dress-X2.jpgThe final section of this show that I want to write about was a danced by Mr. Watson, Mr. Kilbane, Jim Kent, and Justin Reiter.  Mr. Kent, completely vulnerable dancing in only his white shorts, no shirt, lounges on top of Mr. Reiter, Mr. Kilbane and Mr. Watson who were all dressed in their suits, complete with hates, in the most glorious moment of this show for me.  Mr. Kent was pushed, pulled, lifted, twirled, and slid all over the stage by these three men in suits, and it felt like the wish from Mr. Wevers for all the closeted gay artists out there to say, “You don’t have to hide! You can be you! And that which you hid behind, let them lift you up, because what you create is about them, too, and is part of them, too, and you don’t have to be them to be ok.”  And I just loved it!  I have no idea if that’s what Mr. Wevers intended for that moment, but it is the emotion it evoked in me, and I am so proud of these men for so beautifully bringing that out in me.  It was the only moment in this piece that touched me to the point of tears, because the so much of the show brought out anger and frustration for me at the closeted life of so many.  But to have this hopeful moment at the end, yeah, tears rolled down my face, and I’m so grateful for them.

Tonight is closing night of Approaching Ecstasy, and I’m thrilled to announce that it is sold out.  This entire Senses season was absolutely wonderful, and I’m extremely excited to see what the next season holds!

Before I sign off, however, I want to say a special farewell to Mr. Kilbane and Mr. Reiter.  Tonight is their last show with Whim W’Him, as they move on to pursue new adventures and the next steps on their careers.

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Patrick…I know we didn’t get to spend as much time together as I’d like, but please know that watching you dance has been one of the most beautiful experiences of my dance lovers world.  The way you interpret choreography, the beautiful lines you create, and your ability to combine strength and grace is incomparable.  I wish you all the success and happiness in the world in your next chapter. Ballet BC is lucky to have you. Toi Toi Toi!!

006-Bamberg-Fine-Art-1200x1800.jpgMy beloved Justin…what can I say?!?  I am going to miss you so very much.  It is through you, and the wonderful people you call friends, who helped me find Whim W’Him in the first place.  And I will never forget the first time I saw you dance.  You blew my mind with your fluidity, and your honesty, and your raw emotion on stage.  You, my darling, are the stuffs that dance lover’s dreams are made of, and I’m so grateful that I had the privilege to watch you dance for the past three years.  You, and those amazing lines of yours, have a special place in my heart.  Please let me know where your next chapters lead you so that I can continue to come watch and support you throughout your career.  All the best, my darling!

Ciao for now,

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All Photos by Bamberg Fine Art 

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