NW Dance Project’s Carmen: Be Still, My Heart!

Dance Show Promotional, Entertainment Review

Let’s be honest.  I’m a very small time blogger, who happens to adore all things performing arts, but as of yet, this blog is not read by zillions of followers, nor am I a well known force in the arts world.  So with all of that, I don’t expect any perks from this gig.  It’s just an outlet for me to express my feelings on shows I see.  So, imagine my surprise that when I reached out to NW Dance Project and asked if I could come watch a rehearsal as the unbelievably brilliant Ihsan Rustem began creating his latest work, they said yes! The ultimate perk!!

Now, this ‘yes’ is so exciting and important to me because it means one thing: they trust me!  They trust me enough to let me into their world as they work out the steps to their latest program, and I literally got to watch brand new, original steps being created out of the mind of the always brilliant Ihsan Rustem and on to the agile, lithe, powerful beings that are the NW Dance Project Dancers!

As I don’t live in Portland, I only know NW Dance Project by the wonderful productions I’ve been blessed to attend, and through the generosity of Sarah Slipper, Artistic Director, Scott Lewis, Executive Director, and Katie Holliday, Company Manager in sharing the reviews I have written about their company.  And while I had connected with a few of the dancers via the magicks of social media, I had never had the chance to meet them face to face and get to know them personally.  So to be allowed to come into their space and watch them all work, meet them, and get to know them was an opportunity I was not going to pass up!  So I packed up the car, and off to Portland I went!  And People, I was not ready for what was waiting for me.

16473596_10210825635531722_4515968238184693784_nFirst of all, let me talk about the amazing space that NW Dance Project has created for their company and choreographers to work within.  It’s gorgeous.  There’s no other word!  It’s luxurious white decor that flows from the lobby to the education studio to the office to the dancers’ locker room, to the main studio, creates an inviting and enveloping canvas that just makes you want to create something colorful to fill it!  The staff were all so wonderful, and just welcomed me in with open arms.  I instantly felt like one of the family!

And as the dancers were just finishing up ballet class, Mr. Rustem and Ms. Holliday escorted me in to the main studio to meet the dancers.  And one by one, they were so gracious and inviting, and I’ve been such a fan of all of them for almost two years, that while I kept my exterior cool, inside I was fan-girling out like you wouldn’t believe.  These artists, these unbelievable artists, were about to literally create art with Mr. Rustem, and I was simply giddy with anticipation.

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Choreographer Ihsan Rustem creating with Carmen, danced by Andrea Parson

And every hope I had of what this experience would be came true within the first few minutes.  Creation. Collaboration. Chemistry.  All of these elements collided and intertwined in a way that only happens when people have worked for years with each other.  So much trust between Mr. Rustem and the dancers, evident in the way they digested and interpreted his movement, and in the way he would step back and watch them move through and past his latest phrase to gain inspiration from them. Ms. Slipper joined rehearsal multiple times, and seamlessly joined in on the collaboration, and it’s one of the most pure, organic moments of creating art I have ever seen.  I had no idea there would be as much collaboration as there was, and it absolutely blew my mind.

For seven glorious hours I watched them work, frantically taking note after note on what I was witnessing.  And if I told you everything I experienced in this blog, you’d be reading for days!  So, I’ll keep it to this: what they are creating for the Spring show of Carmen is something phenomenally exciting, and I am begging you all to find a way to go see it.

The women in this company are collectively some of the strongest dancers I have ever seen, and individually they take my breath away.  And the men, as technically brilliant as they are powerful are the perfect compliments to these ladies.  And in those 7 hours, I was able to learn more about each dancer’s personality as well as their tenacious work ethics.  Mr. Rustem knows these dancers so well, and that knowledge is utilized to perfection in the roles he has created in his version of Carmen.  I am not going to give away too much now, because I will be gushing about them in my review, I’ve no doubt, but I do want to tell you about Carmen, herself. (The pic below of her…those eyes, though!  Right?!?  People!  She’s the physical embodiment of ‘fierce’!)

NW Dance Project,"Carmen" studio rehearsal,Ihsan Rustem choreography

NW Dance Project,”Carmen” studio rehearsal,Ihsan Rustem choreography

Carmen, a story you’re all very familiar with if you love dance, is not a new story.  However, Mr. Rustem’s twist on it is genius, and the promo pics give a hint to the time and setting, but I won’t give it away if you haven’t figured it out.  Anyway, Carmen, placing herself purposefully between two lovers, causing havoc wherever she goes, leaving angst and devastation in her wake is going to be danced by the beautiful and powerful Andrea Parson.  You’ll remember how Miss Parson moved my heart and soul when she danced the lead in Ms. Slipper’s piece in last year’s Louder than Words, well she is back with a vengeance as Mr. Rustem’s Carmen.  Her commitment to this role, her depth of character development on day 8 of creation has me all in a frenzy over how much deeper she will go with this character between now and performance.  I swear, watching her work this part, her majestic ability to embrace everything being thrown at her, to play this very dynamic character so fully is the stuff that makes me think Shakespeare was describing her when he wrote “Though she be but little, she is fierce!”

And the two men tangled in her web are danced by the incomparable Franco Nieto and Elijah Labay.  Mr. Nieto, dancing Don Jose in the heartbreakingly emotional way that only he can.  Any day I get to watch this brilliant artist dance is a wonderful day, but to get to watch him explore his journey, find nuance after delicious nuance as his character’s story is pushed and pulled by the two antagonists danced by Ms. Parson and Mr. Labay is something I’ll never forget.

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Franco Nieto and Andrea Parson

And then there is Mr. Labay, in case you’ve forgotten is my beloved dancer in the purple shirt who I adore more than words can say, so to get to meet him, and to get to watch him work was something I was looking forward to more than anything!  Like Mr. Nieto, watching Mr. Labay discover the layers and dimensions of the swaggering character of Eli was something I was very much looking forward to, and I was not disappointed.  Something about the way Mr. Labay dances just speaks to me, and I could watch him dance all day long!

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Andrea Parson and Elijah Labay

And then, oh you guys, there’s a scene, this heavenly, steamy, sultry scene danced by Mr. Labay and Ms. Parson, and people you are not ready!  I wasn’t ready, and I should have been ready, but I was NOT ready, and it was just rehearsal!  By performance that scene, lord honey, I don’t even know if I’ll be able to handle it!  Mr. Rustem, you fantastically devilish man, I am so excited to see how this evolves!  And in tandem to this steamy scene is a solo danced by Mr. Nieto that brought tears to my eyes.  He’s going to make you feel all the feelings you’ve ever felt, and probably a few you didn’t know you could feel.  It’s going to be glorious!  GO SEE THIS SHOW!

Both ferocious in their movements, both exquisite in their roles of protagonist and antagonist respectively, Mr. Nieto and Mr. Labay create a trio with Ms. Parson that had me clutching my chest, for be still, my beating heart, they’re so good in this piece!  I mean it, damnit, go see this show!

Carmen is not just a story, it’s a journey.  It’s emotional for the choreographer, it’s emotional for the dancers, and the audience will be pulled into the fray, trust me, and you will be being tossed and jostled amidst the emotional waves that this piece generates, and you’ll thank them for the delicious torture of it all, I promise you!

This company was born to dance this piece, and every single dancer brings exactly what is needed to create the many layers of the story.  When you come see this show you’ll be dazzled by solos, mesmerized by duos and trios, knocked to your core by wolf packs, and forever impacted by secrecy, seduction and murder.  And all of that will be performed by dancers so brave, so willing to open themselves up emotionally that you feel everything they are feeling, and I don’t want any of you to miss this!

This gift of getting to spend not one, but two days with NW Dance Project makes me so happy because I am able do share this show with you before it happens for the first time, because sadly, NW Dance Project only performs their masterpieces for one weekend each season.  And I am going to do everything I can to continue to promote this phenomenal company to hopefully increase attendance at their shows so that they are able to add performances to their schedule because as hard as these dancers work, as amazing as their seasons are, they deserve to have more than three performances for each program!

15895382_1212524365499060_4991593005079827235_n.jpgSo please join me in coming to see Carmen at NW Dance Project in March.  Shows will be Mar 16-18, I myself will be there on Mar 18, and really hope to see you all there! Show times and ticket info can be found on NW Dance Project’s website.

Thank you so much to the entire NW Dance Project family for making this dance lover’s heart soar by allowing me behind the curtain to watch you work.  I am so grateful for the opportunity and forever changed by the experience.

Ciao for now,

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Photo Credit to Blaine Truitt Covert & NW Dance Project’s Facebook Page 

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Canon in P: Brilliant Creativity by Penny Saunders on Whim W’Him

Dance Show Promotional, Entertainment Review

14993564_10157676467865035_242998834512113789_nIn addition to having a few days off of work, the other thing I love about winter vacation is that I have time to get to go do one of my favorite things: watch a Whim W’Him rehearsal! And this year, I got to watch the company work with the choreographer Penny Saunders, and I must say, it was a mesmerizing experience.

In the new rehearsal space, which is much smaller than the studios in the old space, I found Ms. Saunders’ choreography to take up all the space in the room, in the best way possible.  This piece centers around my beloved Justin Reiter, and I can’t tell you how good it was to see him at the heart of this piece. I missed his presence terribly in the Choreographic Shindig, as he was on the periphery for so much of it, and I missed his beautiful lines and powerful breath.

And speaking of breath, you’ve read numerous times how much I love how breath plays a strong part in the success of a WWDC performance.  The company finds a way to breathe together in a rhythmic way that does, in fact, mesmerize me, and Ms. Saunders uses their collective breath to her advantage with this piece.

Mr. Reiter sets the pace and timing of much of the movement with his breath, and the rest of the company follows beautifully.  Whether the only one moving, or whether immersed amidst his fellow dancers, his breath can be seen and heard as he takes the journey Ms. Saunders has created for him.  His complete control of his powerful, yet lithe body to isolate and flow through Ms. Saunders’ choreography is going to take your breath away, I promise you.  It’s everything I love about the way Justin moves, and can’t wait for the actual performance to see the growth he will have between now and then.

I’ve called this piece Canon in P, because Ms. Saunders utilized numerous canons throughout the piece, each more unique and interesting than the one before.  And the company, lined up differently each time, elevates something as simple as a canon to a level of art in that, they are doing the same movement, however, they manage to subtly insert their individuality to each movement creating a soft, yet dynamic symmetry.  Sitting in the small rehearsal room, I was completely entranced by all the canons, and I can’t wait to see how beautiful they will look when I’m up in the house watching this piece from a distance. When I said as much to Ms. Saunders, she smiled and said, “Me, too!”

And without giving away too much, I do quickly want to tantalize you with the promise of something ridiculously special waiting for you in this piece if you are wise enough to buy a ticket and come see this show.  And that special gift is in the form of a duet danced by the 004-bamberg-fine-art-1200x1800incomparable Patrick Kilbane, and new company member Liane Aung.  Mr. Kilbane, one of most stunning dancers I’ve ever had the privilege to watch dance live, has lines and feet that bring tears to my eyes, they are so beautiful.  And in Ms. Aung, he has met his 007-bamberg-fine-art-1200x1800match on that front.  Ms. Aung’s lines, sweet baby Jesus, and her extension are the stuffs that dance lovers’ dreams are made of, and her feet are so gorgeous, that I couldn’t take my eyes off of them.  I could write paragraphs and paragraphs about them, they are that spectacular as she finishes movements with her long, graceful fingers, or the exquisite point of her toe.  These two technical masters, these two emotionally open artists, these two breath-taking dancers have a section in this piece that absolutely transported and affected me.  I won’t tell you which feelings I felt, or where their beautiful moment took me, as I don’t want to color your experience, but trust me, people, you want to see this!  You need to see this!

Whim W’Him’s next show, Sensation opens on Jan 20, and runs through Jan 28.  Please 14962572_10157676466410035_9115623630654052940_nstart your 2017 off right by indulging your senses in this show.  I promise you, you won’t be disappointed!  I’ll be there opening night showing my support for my favorite Seattle Based dance company, and I do wish you’d join me. 

Ciao for now,

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Photos from Whim W’Him’s website and Facebook Page

Hey Guys, Wanna See Some Raw Emotion?

Dance Show Promotional, Entertainment Review

I’ve been given the gift of getting to know the Whim W’Him Dance Company on an intimate level.  They have been gracious enough to invite me into their rehearsal space, and been brave enough to let me watch them create, explore and inspire, and every time I go, I am never quite ready for how profoundly they move me.

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Artistic Director, Olivier Wevers works with Tory Peil and Patrick Kilbane   

The rehearsal I saw was for Artistic Director, Olivier Wevers’new creation: A Disagreeable Tale of Duplicity.  People, the Maestro has outdone himself with this piece, and I was blown away by what I saw, because what he has created is 100% pure raw emotion.  It’s haunting and stunning at the same time, and that was before it was fully cleaned, fully developed, and fully ready for an audience.  I can’t even imagine how breathtaking and heartbreaking the final work will be, but I can’t wait to find out.

I don’t want to give away too much, but I really want to talk to you about the bravery of The Maestro and his dancers.  This piece feels very personal, as it takes on the theme of love, both found and lost, and the impact both can have on a person as they wander, both happily and torturously through the garden that love grows.  The Maestro has cut himself open with his choreography, and is bleeding all over the stage with complete artistic abandon.  His characters beautifully and fully developed, his story hauntingly clear, his genius alive and all encompassing…you do not want to miss this!

But a choreographer’s vision can only go so far if he or she does not have dancers willing to go there as well. And by there, I mean complete and utter vulnerability and courage.  And for this story to work, it needs a brave and charismatic anchor, and The Maestro has that in the beautiful, powerful and brilliant Tory Peil.  This artist, because that is what she is!  This artist physically embodies dance, and on top of her impeccable technique and stunning lines, this chick has the ability to sink so deeply into a character that you completely lose the dancer and just, quite literally feel the dance.   Without a doubt you will see and feel whatever she desires that you see and feel because she has your very soul in the palm of her hand, and with every flick of her gorgeous feet, every deep exhale of her powerful breath, and every nuance of her body, you will be pushed to your emotional limits.  And in this piece, she takes you on an emotional journey so raw, so real, vulgar at times and excruciatingly tender at others, that I guarantee you will not be the same person you were when you walked in to the Cornish Playhouse to see this show.  She brought tears to my eyes during a rehearsal and I had to fight to keep from ugly girl crying right there, and I fear that she is going to make me sob come opening night, and I eagerly anticipate the cleansing!

Ms. Peil is surrounded by the rest of the WWDC dancers, and the company all play a part in her journey, some driving her story, some affecting it, some torturing it, and others helping her through it.  But regardless of their role, each and every one of them provide a foundation by which Ms. Peil can fully let go, fully immerse herself into this story the Maestro has created on her, because her company fully has her supported and the trust between them all is simply beautiful to behold.  I’d love to go into details, but trust me, you don’t want me to spoil it.  You want to experience this brilliance and bravery for yourself.

I will be at Whim W’Him’s OUT-spoken to not only see The Maestro’s genius, but to also see the wonderful works I’ve no doubt are waiting for me from James Gregg and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa (who I hope to meet this time around, not only to see her amazing work because I’m a huge fan, but also to find out what it was like to work on Intensio, because Daniil Simkin is my spirit animal!)

This show is not one to be missed, so please, please, please join me for this performance!  Me and my darling +1 will be there on June 3rd, opening night, and I would very much like to experience it with all of you as well!!  Won’t you join us??!!?!!?!  Show time and ticket information can be found on Whim W’Him’s website, so please give yourself the gift of pure art, and join me in celebrating dance in Seattle!

I wish Mr. Gregg, Ms. Lopez Ochoa, the Maestro, the dancers, and the entire Whim W’Him

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Tory Peil and Patrick Kilbane

family a gigantic Merde!  I will be there cheering you on opening night, and look forward to the art that only you can create!

Ciao for now,

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All Photos by Bamberg Fine Art

The Maestro at Work: A Visit to Whim W’Him

Dance Show Promotional, Entertainment Review

It’s always a good day when I get an email from my favorite Seattle based Dance Company, Whim W’Him, inviting me to come watch a rehearsal.  But it’s a friggin fantastic day when the choreographer I get to watch create at said rehearsal is none other than the Maestro, himself, Olivier Wevers, Artistic Director of Whim W’Him, as he prepares for WWDC’s next show IN-spired.

I was giddy for days leading up to getting to go watch Mr. Wevers work, because of all the pieces I’ve seen WWDC perform, the ones that felt the most natural on these dancers were created at the hands of Mr. Wevers.  As it should be, I think, when an Artistic Director creates a company in his vision.  Little balls of clay, if you will, for him to mold and sculpt into phrase after delicious phrase.  So, off to the Francia Russell Ballet Center I went, to watch the Maestro create.

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Olivier Wevers, Artistic Director, working with (L-R) Patrick Kilbane, Justin Reiter, and Tory Peil. 

And it was everything I’d hoped it would be and oh so very much more!  As I arrived, Mr. Wevers was on the floor, creating a phrase for Mia Monteabaro, and he moved like graceful lightening across the floor, twisting and contorting his body into interesting and complex shapes.  Ms. Monteabaro, dancing behind him, following along and imitating Mr. Wevers’ moves, barely a beat behind him, I swear, she was somehow reading his mind!  It was glorious!  I was such a big fan of Mr. Wevers during his career with the PNB, so watching him dance brought a bit of a tear to my eye and just set the tone for what was to be an absolutely wonderful day of dance.

So, for the next few fabulous hours, I sat and watched as Mr. Wevers continued to create. Cannoning his dancers on and off the stage, creating duets and trios twisting and turning around each other, designing lifts and splits which show off the strength and flexibility of the company had this dance lover’s mind spinning with glee!  And all to the delectable and delightful Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major, which seems to absolutely inspire Mr. Wevers, as every time he’d run the phrases with music, you could see his mind racing with new ideas and movement to try on his dancers.

 

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Olivier Wevers, Artistic Director, standing in for Tory Peil, in between Justin Reiter and Patrick Kilbane as they create his piece.

 

And speaking of the dancers, these seven talented balls of clay, they are the perfect medium for Mr. Wevers’ art.  Changes to the company have happened since last I saw WWDC in September, and now there are five gorgeous men and two stunning women making up the company.  The addition of Patrick Kilbane (the legs and feet on this guy, I can’t even tell you!  #SquatGoals like you wouldn’t believe!) is a seamless change within this company as his power and strength fit right in with the talents of the six I’ve already come to know and adore!  Kyle Matthew Johnson, Thomas Phelan and Tory Peil dance one of my favorite phrases that I saw that day, partnering together so beautifully!  Ms. Monteabaro and Jim Kent also have a lovely duet section that was gracefully fluid and dynamic at the same time.  And Justin Reiter, the little chameleon that he is, flawlessly gliding between phrases whether mirroring or partnering, taking my breath away like he always does!  Getting to see these seven artists work together to bring Mr. Wevers vision to life was an experience I won’t soon forget.

The last rehearsal I saw back in September was more of a run-through of a completed piece.  But this time, I truly was immersed in their process to create, and damn, do they work hard!  As a former jazz dancer, I have no idea how contemporary dancers hear the music, because they flow along with it, rather than being held to downbeats and 8-counts.  The same goes for the Maestro.  He has sections of music, and shifts his creation with the changing of the concerto, but does not hold himself to the rhythm of Brahms, but rather creates a syncopated one that compliments and contradicts in a spectacular way, finding nuances within the music that I never would have heard, and it’s magical to watch.

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L-R: Justin Reiter, Patrick Kilbane and Tory Peil

 

I can’t wait to see how the Maestro will finish his creation to this beautiful piece of music.  I’m so excited to see how the seven stunning balls of clay, each with their unique color and texture, come together to make a stunningly creative, deliciously complex, and fantastically entertaining sculpture, the likes of which only the Maestro can create.

Thank you to the Maestro (Olivier, I’m calling you that from now on, so get used to it!) and to Katie Bombico, Executive Director, for allowing me to tip toe into the Whim W’Him world for a few wonderful hours.  Watching true artists create art is the best way I can think to spend a day.  I will see you both at the show and wish you all a very enthusiastic and supportive Merde!!

Tickets and show info for IN-spired can be found on Whim W’Him’s website and Brown Paper Tickets.

Ciao for now,

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Photo Credit: Bamberg Fine Art

Seattle Ballet Legend, Patricia Barker, Is Back!

Dance Show Promotional
Patricia Barker, Artistic Director, Grand Rapids Ballet

Patricia Barker, Artistic Director, Grand Rapids Ballet

When you think of ballet in Seattle, one name is sure to immediately jump into your mind: Patricia Barker.  Seattleites were blessed with the gift of having Ms. Barker on the stage at the Pacific Northwest Ballet for 27 glorious years, reveling in her journey as a fast rising star from her early days with the company to growing into an iconic ballet goddess. I’m sure I speak for all of her fans when I say our hearts broke a bit when we had to say goodbye to her in 2007 when she hung up her toe shoes and retired from performing.  Well, let the healing begin, because the legend is back, people! Patricia Barker is coming back to Seattle next week with Grand Rapids Ballet in a role we’ve never seen from her before in the Northwest: Artistic Director!

At Grand Rapids Ballet, Ms. Barker found a new home, and a new stage to wow audiences on, only this time from the director’s chair where, for the past five years, she has brought together dancers and choreographers to create mesmerizing movement out of innovative concepts.  Any ballet company would have been lucky to have Ms. Barker at the helm, so when asked what it was about Grand Rapids Ballet that made her want to call it home for this next chapter of her career she said, “There is a hunger here for new and innovative art.  Because of the support from our audience and the community, I have been able to push my own boundaries as an Artistic Director by continually challenging myself to find and bring in the best talent that there is out there.”

APB-GRB2She not only found amazing talent within her company (I’m speaking of course, of the exquisite dancers she works with every season), but she also shares her stage with choreographers from all over the world. These brilliantly creative people come to Michigan to collaborate with her dancers to, in her own words,“…build a breathtaking repertory full of innovation, passion and humor that is both bold and daring.”

Collaboration was always evident with Ms. Barker as a performer, bringing to life one captivating role after another, so I’m not surprised at all that she continues this tradition of bar raising excellence as an Artistic Director. You would see Ms. Barker dance iconic roles like Odette or Titania, and know that you’d never see it quite like that on any other dancer. There was a consistent strength, connection, and unique sense of style in her movement that could never be replicated. Patricia Barker had a resounding voice as a performer, and I’ve no doubt she’s instructing and inspiring the Grand Rapids Ballet dancers to find their own voices within their movement and to, if you’ll indulge the metaphor, harmonize beautifully with all the choreographers who show up to create new works with them.

“The success of these choreographers is largely due to the dedication and passion and talents of my dancers, who work with them to bring inspiration and ideas to life on stage.”

~Patricia Barker, Artistic Director, Grand Rapids Ballet

It’s those collaborations that Seattle audiences are finally going to get to see when Grand Rapids Ballet arrives next week to perform works by five internationally renowned choreographers, in two parts, over a five-day extravaganza of creativity and passion.

11866340_10207918983959393_9221530741689023822_nFirst up will be A Midsummer Night’s Dream, choreographed by Olivier Wevers, Artistic Director of my favorite Seattle-based Dance Company, Whim W’Him. It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Mr. Wevers, and a proud ‘Whimmer’ (which is the name they have adorably given us supporters of their company), but I have been a fan since I saw him dance, alongside Ms. Barker, in many ballets at the Pacific Northwest Ballet.  Knowing that he is a part of Ms. Barker’s return to Seattle just makes me all the more excited for her production to arrive!

This is not the first time Mr. Wevers and Ms. Barker have collaborated on this story as they danced it many times together at Pacific Northwest Ballet.  So, for Ms. Barker to commission Mr. Wevers to choreograph a completely new version on her company seems like a match made in heaven.  Mr. Wevers and Ms. Barker have collaborated during her time at Grand Rapids Ballet twice before Midsummer, but this is the first full length piece Mr. Wevers has done for her.

Patricia and I constantly exchange ideas with each other.  She is willing to take risks, and I love working with her because she truly sees the future of dance.

~Olivier Wevers, Choreographer and Artistic Director, Whim W’Him Dance Company

Two of my favorite PNB dancers of all time joining forces again, this time as the creative genius team reinventing one of my favorite stories makes me so happy, I can’t even tell you! Barker meets Wevers meets Shakespeare?  A holy trinity of creativity, if ever there was one, and my jubilation level of anticipation is through the roof!  So, what can we expect with this modern Midsummer? From Ms. Barker herself, we can expect mesmerizing movement and sophisticated humor.

APB-GRB3“Olivier and I have a special relationship that stretches back to our days of dancing together at PNB. Creating a contemporary twist on something as classic as Shakespeare with my close friend has been exhilarating. Olivier’s choreography is truly mesmerizing and his ability to tell a story with sophisticated humor is exceptional. My dancers have unique perspective now on this story which I know will carry over the footlights into the audience.”

I had the pleasure of discussing this piece with Mr. Wevers tonight, and the concept and design are so fascinating, so intriguing and new, I cannot wait to see his vision come to life! I don’t want to say too much, because spoiler alerts are never fun, but one view of the teaser video, reinforces that this ain’t your grandmother’s Midsummer! No, this is, in fact, a modern, whimsical spin told from the perspective of the young changeling boy Oberon and Titania fight over throughout the story.  A character, if you have never seen the play staged, that often gets overlooked and ignored based on the way Shakespeare wrote it.  Mr. Wevers, however, has merged the changeling boy with the character of Nick Bottom giving this character a new voice and a unique journey from inside the imagination of a young child as his dreams of his adult self come to life.  Mind already blown, and I havne’t even seen it yet!

Set on the backdrop of America politics with lighting by the brilliant Michael Mazzola (Wevers and Mazzola are a dream team as you’ll recall from my review of Whim W’him’s 2015 Choreographic Shindig), this is going to be an extraordinary piece you will not want to miss! This audience member cannot wait to have the energy and creativity spill over the footlights into the Cornish Theatre, and you should all join me!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays Oct 7-9, 2015 at the Cornish Playhouse, and you can get tickets on Brownpaper Tickets.

Movemedia-smallAnd if that is not enough to have you heading over to Brownpaper Tickets to get your seats, then how about part two of Ms. Barker’s triumphant return to Seattle? It comes in the form of a mixed rep production called MOVEMEDIA | Seattle, and it features works by four internationally renowned choreographers. To tantalize your dance loving taste buds, here is how Ms. Barker describes each work and why she chose this show as the first one to bring to the Pacific Northwest:

“It was important to me to not only pick ballets that Seattle will enjoy but also ballets that represent our inventiveness as a company.

Slight-242x300The first ballet in the program is Slight by Penny Saunders. Coming from Hubbard Street, Penny had a lot of fun experimenting with light and shadows, creating a fully immersive experience.

Beethoven-Web-242x300Our next ballet, Mario Radacovsky’s Beethoven, premiered on our stage last season to audience acclaim. In the middle of the ballet, there is a powerful orchestra section, interpreted through dance, which speaks volumes to the genius of Beethoven.

Written-Forgotten-Web-242x300Annabelle Lopez Ochoa is a star in the dance world. When WRITTEN & FORGOTTEN premiered in Grand Rapids, audience members left the theatre dancing down the aisles. Her ability to discuss the human journey through dance is something I feel privileged to share with audiences in Seattle.

APB-GRB5Lastly, David Parsons’ The Envelope is a modern masterpiece that has been performed by ballet companies all over the world… but never in Seattle. I feel honored to bring this humorous and creative work to the West Coast.”

This will be my first exposure to these four choreographers, but based on the delicious way Ms. Barker described these pieces, I think my fellow Seattle dance enthusiasts and I are in for quite a treat!

MOVEMEDIA | Seattle plays Oct 10-11, also at the Cornish Playhouse, and tickets can be purchased at Brownpaper Tickets. Take a look at the teaser video of this amazing body of work!

Born and raised in Washington State, Seattle was Ms. Barker’s home for a long time and it holds a special place in her heart. She returns to Seattle to share with us the work she’s done with Grand Rapids Ballet, and also seems quite excited to share Seattle with her company of dancers. I have absolutely no doubt that this will not only be a successful introduction, but will be the start of a beautiful, life-long friendship between our great city and the exquisite ballet company of Grand Rapids, all thanks to the legendary creativity and vision of Ms. Patricia Barker who so graciously and enthusiastically is bringing her passion to share with us. And I, for one, am humbled and honored to be a part of it.

APB-GRB6Please don’t miss this incredible opportunity to watch Grand Rapids Ballet perform in Seattle for the very first time.  Welcome home, Ms. Barker. We’ve missed you!

Ciao for now,

M lg

Photos courtesy of Grand Rapids Ballet and grballet.com

Whim W’him 2015 Choreographic Shindig: A Three Course Feast for All the Senses

Dance Review, Dance Show Promotional

It’s a complete understatement to say that I’ve been eagerly awaiting the opening of Whim W’Him’s 2015 Choreographic Shindig after experiencing the magic of watching the company rehearse for this production. I’ve been shivering with anticipation to have a new experience, the likes of which only Whim W’him can provide.  It was like being invited to a dinner party at an good friend’s house who is a phenomenal chef in their own right.  You’ve dined with them numerous times before, and are always excited to be extended an invitation, because you know the meal will be exquisite.  Yet, this time, your friend and host lets you know they’ve hired three new chefs who have prepared a feast you’ll not soon forget, igniting excitement and curiosity at a totally new experience in a familiar setting.  Only, the host is Artistic Director, Olivier Wevers, and the three new chefs are a trio of choreographers chosen by the company to come create a feast of originality and ingenuity just for you, and it will entice and arouse your senses in the most delicious way!

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Image: Molly Magee of Bamberg Fine Art Choreography: Joshua L. Peugh Dancers: Jim Kent, Mia Monteabaro, Tory Peil, Thomas Phelan, and Lara Seefedlt

The appetizer, if you will, is presented by Joshua L. Peugh.  You’ll remember I got a taste of Mr. Peugh’s brilliance when I was invited to watch one of his rehearsals. It was at that rehearsal where Mr. Peugh landed on the name of his piece: Short Acts on the Heartstrings, and my heartstrings couldn’t agree more!  Seeing this piece in its final form, complete with costumes and lighting took my breath away.  White tuxedos and Cotton Candy Green flowing dresses twirled and whirled around the stage, creating light and happiness straight into the audience!  It’s akin to sampling various amuse-bouche where sweetness and freshness brings delight and joy, followed by a hint of heat which sneaks up on you, and the slow, delectable burn of spices tickles your senses, opening up your palate for the flavors yet to come.  That’s how Heartstrings affected me.  Light and funny one moment, deep and connected the next, with pops of unexpected heat that had me craving more!  Of all the fantastic phrases throughout this piece, there are two duets that simply stole my breath.  One was with Kyle Johnson and Tori Peil, and the other was with Kyle Johnson and Justin Reiter.  The beauty of these couples performing the movement created by Mr. Peugh was stunning to behold.  I laughed. I sighed (the kind of sighs you give when you watch a happy ending to a fabulous RomCom). I enjoyed every minute of being transported back to the, as I described before, a Mad Men meets Pulp Fiction dinner party hosted by Rosemary Clooney.  Pulled on the heartstrings for sure, and set the unbelievably beautiful tone for the evening.

The second course, if you’ll continue to indulge the metaphor, was a rich and meaty creation by Maurya Kerr titled into the wide welcome.  Although, I found myself adding “or not” onto the end of the title, because this piece took the Whim W’him company through a formidable physical expression of emotion that was less than welcoming.  None of the six dancers in this piece were spared a heightened emotional journey that, to me, showed the constant human need for contact, often with someone who is unhealthy for you.  The design elements added to the impassioned voice of Ms. Kerr as she weaved and threaded the dancers around each other.  All dancers dressed in shades of grey, the lights a harsh grey-white, and I’m not sure if it was part of the choreography, but when the air conditioner kicked on right as the pace of the piece accelerated and the music piped in, I swear, I was transported right into the middle of someone’s icy cold heart.  And I loved it!

Image: Molly Magee of Bamberg Fine Art Choreography: Maurya Kerr Dancers: Kyle Johnson and Tory Peil

Image: Molly Magee of Bamberg Fine Art
Choreography: Maurya Kerr
Dancers: Kyle Johnson and Tory Peil

Again, Mr. Johnson and Ms. Peil had my favorite sections of this piece, my heart aching for them as they struggled with their want for each other, yet never finding comfort in the contact for long!  With every frantic separation, my heart broke for them, and tears rolled down my cheeks.  The final section, all six dancers moving as one, creating a new pulse in the room.  Like a human chest compression, slowly and methodically easing life back into the room.  Creating heat and breath, where there was none before.  It’s one hell of a journey, and I hope all of you will give yourself the gift of experiencing it.

With the palate tantalizing appetizer and complex filling main course complete, that left room for the final course; a luscious, sinful dessert created by the incomparable Ihsan Rustem.  The piece titled The Road to Here was mouth-watering from the first move.  Seductive lines, provocative pictures, and sensual music pulled me, and everyone around me into Mr. Rustem’s hypnotic rhythms.  All seven company members shifted and

Image: Molly Magee of Bamberg Fine Art Choreography: Ihsan Rustem Dancers: Justin Reiter, Thomas Phelan, Tory Peil, Kyle Johnson, Mia Monteabaro, Lara Seefedlt, and Jim Kent

Image: Molly Magee of Bamberg Fine Art
Choreography: Ihsan Rustem
Dancers: Justin Reiter, Thomas Phelan, Tory Peil, Kyle Johnson, Mia Monteabaro, Lara Seefedlt, and Jim Kent

moved from one divine phrase to the next as if they were made of water. The company was audibly breathing as one unit, and I found my own breath catching with every new titillating movement.  Mr. Rustem’s use of the entire space was fiercely brilliant, with a deliciously devilish surprise half way through that I won’t say any more about, because you MUST experience it for yourself! Let’s just say it’s the cherry on top of a decadent experience you don’t want to miss.  From start to finish I was on the edge of my seat watching this piece, savoring every morsel Mr. Rustem provided.  When it was over, I was both satiated and satisfied, and I highly suggest you go get a taste for yourself!

I also want to take a moment to applaud the lighting designer for the Shindig, Mr. Michael Mazzola.  Mr. Mazzola’s designs for these three unique and powerful pieces were absolute perfection!  The warm, angelic glow for Mr. Peugh, the cold frigid wash for Ms. Kerr, and the seductive vibrancy for Mr. Rustem were all at a level of mastery that matched the vision of each piece brilliantly.  Bravo!

My hat is off to the ingenuity of Mr. Wevers and the unbelievably open way he runs his company.  Encouraging and championing his company members to grow as true artists, and allowing them the opportunity to choose the choreographers for this Shindig is truly inspired. Mr. Wevers said in the Q&A after the show that his goal for Whim W’him was to create a company where artists can flourish and grow, and I’d say the 2015 Choreographic Shindig proves that his goal has been beautifully and exquisitely achieved.  With selfless vision like that, Whim W’him has a very bright future ahead.

With every new experience, my respect for this dance company grows.  I’m definitely a Whimmer now, and a very proud season subscriber.  My hat is off to the entire company, the choreographers, and the designers of the 2015 Choreographic Shindig.  It was a resounding success, and I am definitely the better for having experienced it.

This gets a resounding Bravo, and a standing ovation!  Congratulations!

The Choreographic Shindig has five more performances at the Erickson unnamedTheatre Off Broadway in Capital Hill:

  • September 13 (today!) at 5pm
  • September 16, 17, 18 and 19 at 8pm

Tickets can be purchased at Brown Paper Tickets.

Ciao for now,

M lg

Whim W’him’s Choreographic Shindig is a Must See!

Dance Show Promotional

There are rare moments in life that move you.  For me, it usually comes in the form of watching artists creating their art.  Seeing a profound performance in a play, or hearing a tenor sing a Sondheim song perfectly, or watching a dancer move through epic choreography.  And it’s that last one that moved me today when I had the pleasure and the privilege to watch a rehearsal  at my favorite Seattle based dance company:  Whim W’him.

Artistic Director, Olivier Wevers, and Executive Director, Catherine Bombico were kind enough to invite me in to watch as the dancers prepare for their upcoming performance at WWDC’s Choreographic Shindig, opening in a few short weeks.  Last year the Whim W’him company of dancers issued an international call to emerging choreographic talent to come and create with them.  Of the 95 entries, three ridiculously talented artists were selected:  Joshua Peugh, Maurya Kerr, and Ihsan Rustem.  And today, I got to watch Mr. Peugh rehearse his creation with the full company, and it was an inspirational, emotionally charged experience for me.

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Choreography: Joshua Peugh……Dancers: Tori Peil and Justin Reiter

Not to give much away, as you must come experience this for yourself to truly understand what no amount of words could convey, but to tantalize your taste buds, I’ll describe what Mr. Peugh has created as a remarkable piece that makes one feel as though they are attending a Mad Men meets Pulp Fiction themed dinner party hosted by Rosemary Clooney who croons us all in to each course, one more delectable and delicious than the one before!  Sound bizarre?  It’s not!  It’s beautiful!

I want to gush more about this, but I’ll hold off until my review after the performance, because you know, spoiler alerts and all.  I will just say, watching these artists work on their craft, perfecting their art, pulled on the heartstrings and filled this dance-lover’s soul with complete joy!  I’m so excited to see all three of the amazing numbers I know are waiting for me at this shindig!

The Whim W’him Choreographic Shindig will be at the Erickson Theater Off Broadway, 1524 Harvard Avenue, Seattle, WA 98122, and runs September 11-19, 2015:

  • September 11-12 at 8pm
  • September 13th at 5pm
  • September 16-19 at 8pm.

I, myself, will be attending the Saturday, September 12th performance, and I really think each and every one of you should join me!

To the entire company and all three choreographers, I give a resounding and enthusiastic Merde!

Please come out and support these amazing artists we are lucky enough to have in our great city.  Tickets can be purchased on Brownpaper Tickets here:  http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1728649.

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Ciao for now,

M lg