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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Whim W’Him Gave Me Life with Sensation

Dance Review, Entertainment Review

16194886_10158070312345035_8100611831711689121_nJanuary 20, 2017 is one of the darkest days in American history for anyone with a conscience and a soul.  And both the Whim W’Him family, and those of us that support them are full of both, so it warmed my heart to be in a theatre with these people reminding ourselves what is truly important after a day full of nonsensical political propaganda.  As Artistic Director, Olivier Wevers, said in his curtain speech, “At Whim W’Him, we don’t build walls,” and he broke down as he started this speech, but you know what happened next?  The audience jumped to thunderous applause to remind him that we are all behind him and all right there with him!  We, the Whimmers, are a loving, supportive family, and we are going to always come together to enjoy the beauty and light that Whim W’Him always provides to its audience.  I’m so proud to be a Whimmer, and Friday night, that pride expanded to the rest of the folks sitting around me.  What was a very hard, emotional day, one where I just wanted to go home and pull the covers over my head, I’m so glad I made it to the Cornish Theatre because the show that waited for me was everything I needed to remind me what is good in this world.  So, let’s get to talking about Sensation, shall we?

People, people, people, this show, I can honestly say, is breathtakingly moving.  Aptly named, it created Sensations within me that were wonderful, dynamic, and powerful.  You’ll recall that I wrote a promotional piece about Penny Saunders’ piece: play-by-play when I was gifted the wonderful experience of watching her rehearsal a few weeks ago, and you guys, it evolved into one of the most beautiful dances I’ve ever seen.  Gorgeously costumed, brilliantly staged, the journey of this piece transcended beauty for me into something I don’t even have a word to describe.  It was ethereal, dark and light at the same time, and so technically and physically challenging!  Ms. Saunders did not take it easy on the dancers, and pushed them to their physical exhaustion.  From my seat in the fifth row, I could see sweat flinging off of the dancers as they turned and launched themselves around the stage. And that pas de deux with Patrick Kilbane and Liane Aung was as mind blowing as I knew it was going to be!  The lines, the extension, the core strength, the intensity, and the beauty by which these two dancers connect in their section took every breath from me!  I believe the word “Wow” came out of my mouth as a shocked whisper at some of the movement these two dancers are able to bring to life.  It was amazing!

91afe50c-e04a-11e6-a303-e49f56b5b765-1020x680The canons, the delicious, delectable canons were, as I knew they would be, unbelievably exquisite from a distance.  Absolutely mesmerized me.  And also as expected, the growth in the journey that my beloved Justin Reiter moved through in this piece brought me to tears, and I couldn’t take my eyes off him whenever he was on stage.  So plugged in to his fellow dancers, so expertly pushed his body through each phrase after challenging phrase, zapping his strength and pushing his emotions, I think this is the best I’ve ever seen Mr. Reiter dance.  Two people just up behind me put it perfectly, when Mr. Reiter began to move before the music joined him and one said “Oh my god!” with complete wonderment in her voice and her friend said, “Exactly.  That’s Justin.  Just wait,”and oh was she right.  Bravo, Justin, for taking on this powerful journey and sharing it with all of us.  The light you bring to the stage, even in dark moments, is the stuff that gives me life! Thank you!!

The second piece the dancers took on was called Line Dance by Larry Keigwin, and people, this was everything I needed on this dark day!  This beautiful, pure piece was the physical embodiment of joy!  The dancers, all dressed in white, shifting and moving from straight line to cluster, from full company phrases, to single dancers moving, it all felt like a stunning kaleidoscope that brought joyful tears to my eyes!  Let me try to explain what happened while I watched this dance – I felt complete elation.  I felt hope and happiness.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  The dancers watched each other’s solos and duets they weren’t in, and it created this bridge between performer and audience.  And they were enjoying watching their fellow dancers dance.  And the joy of that alone was infectious and just filled the room with light and joy.  Did I say joy?  Cuz there was just joy dripping from the stage, and I was so moved by it!

16142219_10158071168780035_6800517553139421950_nSo many favorite moments from this piece, but there are two I’ll share that just brought sheer ecstasy to my wounded heart.  First, Miss Tory Peil, we all know I love me some Miss Tory, and it’s because in addition to being an exquisite dancer, she is a phenomenal actress as well, and there’s this bit where she’s drawing lines and squiggles in the air with her finger, playing with Jim Kent and with Patrick Kilbane, and for all of her long, lithe frame, she was so playful, so adorable, it was just fantastic to watch.  Took you back to playing with friends as a child, and transported me back to moments of that childlike innocence.  And the second is during a super-quick moment where it was just Mr. Reiter and Mr. Kilbane dancing side by side, and they shared a look of complete friendship and happiness to be dancing together, and happy tears fell from my eyes at that moment.  I don’t know if it was part of the choreography, or just a real organic moment that happened between these two, but it was so beautiful to behold.  Mr. Kilbane dances with such serious expression, the technical genius that he is, so to see him let go and just dance with abandon next to Mr. Reiter is a moment I will never forget.  I jumped to my feet the minute the dancers lined up for their curtain call on this, because this!  This amazingly beautiful piece full of joy and light is what everyone needs right now.  It was my favorite piece of the night.  Thank you all for this!  I just love you for this experience, and thank you Mr. Keigwin for reminding us what joy looks like, because we all need to cling to it as we struggle with these terrifying times.

Lastly, the Maestro brought us another of his masterpieces, this one titled Catch & Release, although I must say, I’d love to rename this piece to be called Fractured, because that was what I got from this very deep, very poignant piece by Artistic Director, Olivier Wevers. Between the fractured light dispersing light and shade at harsh angles, as only the brilliant Michael Mazzola can do, and the way those light patterns were splayed across the costumes of the dancers, all I felt throughout this piece was Fracture.  Darkness fractured to just let a bit of light through.  And depending on your perspective, it’s either the light cracking through the dark, or the dark almost shutting out the light.  Either way, this piece was absolutely brilliant.

This piece centered around Ms. Peil, tortured again in a way reminiscent from last Spring’s show, where the object of her affection treats her so cruelly.  Mr. Wevers expertly uses his dancers to push and pull on Ms. Peil, both physically and emotionally depending on their presence or absence from the stage.  Ms. Peil’s ability to be emotionally open on stage is one of my favorite things about a Whim W’Him show.  She is not afraid of any emotion, she does not close off the audience, but instead just opens her heart and lets us all the way in, and my heart broke with hers in this piece.  Her breath, her beautiful breath, always present, always driving her through her journeys, caught so many times in this piece, and it was haunting and heartbreaking at the same time.

1-7-768x576There’s a major music change at the end, after Ms. Peil has been jerked around by her antagonists, fantastically danced by Mr. Kilbane and Karl Watson, and the company are all on the floor and randomly they get up and slow dance with Ms. Peil.  It was heart wrenching.  Gave me the sensation of when we’ve all been searching for something to fill the void left by someone who was in our life, but hasn’t fully gone away.  You know that sensation i’m talking about where, you start to move on, but then they show back up again and get in the way.  Every time Mr. Kilbane came back in to the scene to interject himself into a moment she was having with another dancer, I wanted to scream “OMG, just let her be, ugh!”

This piece was danced beautifully, and everyone played their part brilliantly.  And like Ms. Peil, Mr. Wevers is not afraid to open himself up to his audience and share his emotions and experiences, and i’m always so moved by his art.  And this one really rang true on a personal note for me, and I just loved it!14993564_10157676467865035_242998834512113789_n
Overall, this is one hell of a show!  And I urge everyone to make time to go see it while it runs through Jan 28.  Show and ticket information can be found here.

I give this a thunderous standing ovation!  Bravo!!

Ciao for now,

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Images from Bamberg Fine Art and Whim W’Him’s Facebook Page

 

Olivier Wevers’ Midsummer: A Magical Combination of Wit, Whimsy and Wonder

Dance Review

When art transcends one medium into another, it’s always a wonder to behold.  Tonight, one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was reinvented as a contemporary ballet choreographed by the incomparable Olivier Wevers on the Grand Rapids Ballet Company, and it truly was a vision to behold.

Olivier Wevers, Choreographer and Artistic Director of Whim W'Him Dance Company

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

The Bard’s complex comedy has been done in dance form before, but never like this.  Never with the wit and whimsy that Mr. Wevers brought to this story, taking, as he said in the post-show talk-back panel, a very personal approach to the concept.  As a boy, Mr. Wevers was a dreamer, a lover of books, and would escape into his imagination.  He parlayed that youth, that innocence, into this story through the eyes of the little changeling boy who the Fairy King and Queen fight over in the story.

“Olivier is classically trained, but he has his eye on the future of dance.”

~Patricia Barker, Artistic Director, Grand Rapids Ballet

Photo by Bamberg Fine Art Photography

Photo by Bamberg Fine Art Photography

As I stated in my promotional piece on Grand Rapids Ballet’s arrival in Seattle under the direction of Artistic Director, Patricia Barker, this changeling boy is often lost in the stage productions of this show, as he has no lines and minimal presence, other than as a possession the King and Queen of the Fairies want for themselves.  It would be very difficult to give him any more depth, let alone a voice, without rewriting the Bard, and who would dare to do such a thing?  However, with dance, you could give him an identity, a name, and most importantly, a perspective on this lovable, fun-filled story, and it’s that creative vision that Mr. Wevers used to take the audience on a mischievous journey through a dream on a midsummer’s night told through the eyes of an eight year old boy.

These characters are all exquisitely brought to life by the amazing talent of the Grand Rapids Ballet dancers, all equally brilliant in the way they interpret Mr. Wevers’ choreography.  In a style I’ve come to love from watching Mr. Wevers’ Seattle based dance company Whim W’Him perform his work, there is a lot of movement filling each count, combining to make dynamic and fluid phrases that are simply breathtaking in their complexity and beauty.  These dancers made each movement from the flick of a wrist, to a complicated lift look effortless, and embraced the choreography as if they were born to dance it.

Photo by Bamberg Fine Art Photography

Photo by Bamberg Fine Art Photography

Photo by Bamberg Fine Art Photography

Photo by Bamberg Fine Art Photography

Mr. Wevers played with shapes, specifically lines and circles, both in his formations as well as specific movement with the fairies, and it was a whirling dervish regale that left my mind spun in the most delicious way. His partner work created on the four lovers was like watching a kaleidoscope of colors, weaving and twisting, challenging the dancers with a mosaic of direction changes, which all four danced with expert grace.  The corps of fairies and the lovers were
absolutely stunning to watch, and did a beautiful job creating, shifting, and changing this dream land of the young boy.  I was awed and impressed.

The lead roles of Fairy King Oberon and Fairy Queen Titania were danced beautifully by Nicholas Schultz and Yuka Oba, respectively.  Not only are these two impeccably gorgeous dancers with a skill and precision that are the perfect canvas for Mr. Wevers’ choreography, but they are fantastic actors as well!  Mr. Schultz, so laser focused on Oberon’s goal of getting what he wants, unwavering in his mission to take the boy from Titania, was a superb mix of control freak and master manipulator.  He truly ruled the stage, and every time he hit, what I will forever call the Oberon Vogue Pose, I got goosebumps from the power he threw out over the footlights.

Titania, performed by Yuka Oba and Oberon, performed by Nicholas Schultz

Titania, performed by Yuka Oba and Oberon, performed by Nicholas Schultz                                    Photo by Bamberg Fine Art Photography

And for all of Oberon’s power, Titania’s fire and sass are the perfect match for him.  Ms. Oba is one of the most beautiful dancers I’ve seen dance in years!  She’s so committed to her character, so natural in her movement, and her ability to shift from doting mother to aroused lover was done seamlessly and yet with a quiet power all her own.  She’s one fierce dancer who went step for step with Mr. Schultz, and I can’t imagine how wonderful it was for Mr. Wevers to have these two anchor his story in such a magnificent way!

“I love Nicholas and Yuka, I would choreograph them all the time if I could!”

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

1293_7718These two phenomenal dancers do a pas de deux towards the end of the ballet, and people, it took my breath away, it was so stunning.  The push and pull that Mr. Wevers created between these two was art in its purest form.  There was grace, there was beauty, there was power, and there was discovery.  It was as if this royal couple were dancing this dance for the first time, reminding each other what they loved about each other, even reminding each other what frustrates them about the other, and yet refusing to give up.  They fight through the moments, that I’m guessing any set of soul mates face in a complicated relationship.  All of that raw emotional discovery was rolled into this dance.  Thank you, Mr. Wevers, for being brave enough to create this moment, and thank you Mr. Schultz and Ms. Oba for bringing this exquisitely real moment to life.  It was absolutely beautiful.

Photo by Bamberg Fine Art Photography

Photo by Bamberg Fine Art Photography

Lastly, I must mention the mischief-making comic apex of this story that everyone knows: Puck.  The curious, ornery fairy who rarely follows direction correctly, and whose playfulness drives the play along, was delightfully played by Matt Wenckowski.  He fully committed to the character, jumped and hopped all over the set, slipping and sliding through the world leaving chaotic humor in his wake.  Dancing along the veil between the fairy world and the human world, Mr. Wenckowski was a delightful sprite who had me giggling at his merriment throughout the show.  And what this boy can do with a fog gun, I’m just saying, that alone should make you go see this!  Hysterical!

Photo by Bamberg Fine Art Photography

Photo by Bamberg Fine Art Photography

Mr. Wevers’ full concept, including the design elements, created a beautiful white world for which the fairies and humans could play upon, giving me the feel of being inside the pages of one of the boy’s books.  Ingenious set pieces that move and slide around the stage, morphing and changing like a live game of Tetris, stunning costumes designed by Patricia Barker, Artistic Director of Grand Rapids Ballet, and the brilliant lighting of Michael Mazzola (Seriously, his lighting is some of the best I’ve ever seen, and I hope he continues to light Mr. Wevers dances for years to come!) came together as the perfect trifecta of creative genius.

Although, my favorite design element was the variety of footwear on the entire company for this piece.  The Fairies, all dancing in socks, the human lovers in ballet shoes (the girls in toe shoes), and the silly characters in street shoes (adult Nick Bottom and his political entourage in dress shoes and Puck in white Keds looking tennis shoes).  This variety added a depth and complexity that heightened the hilarious pandemonium going on in this world, and I found the choices absolutely inspired.

Photo by Bamberg Fine Art Photography

Photo by Bamberg Fine Art Photography

Visually stunning, brilliantly choreographed, and beautifully danced, this Midsummer is a witty, whimsical, and wonderful contemporary twist on a beloved tale.  Please give yourself the gift of seeing this show.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays for two more nights at the Cornish Playhouse in Seattle Center.  Tickets and show information can be found here.

I give this a thunderous applause, and a resounding Bravo!

Congratulations to Mr. Wevers on his first full length, story-driven ballet created on Grand Rapids Ballet.  I have a feeling we’ll see this pairing again in the future, and I for one, can’t wait to see what they do next!

Ciao for now,

M lg

Photos by Bamberg Fine Art Photography, Courtesy of Olivier Wevers

Whim W’Him Presents X-POSED in Seattle, WA

Entertainment Review

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My first love is dance.  I began studying around the age of five, and fell in love with movement.  And even though my dance training gave way to gymnastics, and eventually acting, my love of dance has never faltered.  I love all styles, and am mesmerized by original and powerful choreography, most of which I see on television shows like So You Think You Can Dance and documentaries about dance companies.  It had been so very long since I had seen good, inventive choreography in person.  That is, until I discovered Whim W’him.

My first encounter with Whim W’him was back in January 2015. I was invited by a friend to join her for their THREEFOLD performance to support a friend of hers who is in the company.  Having never heard of Whim W’him before, I did my research before accepting the invitation.  And immediately upon clicking on the ‘About the Company’ link on the website, two words gave me all I needed to know that I would definitely attend the show.  Those two words were:  Olivier Wevers.  I watched Mr. Wevers for years with the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and was always moved by his performances.  Even small solos in his first year with the company left an impression on me.  I never forgot his name.  So to find out that he is the Artistic Director of Whim W’him, well, I had to find out what his new company was all about.

I attended THREEFOLD and was so impressed by the three pieces the company performed, that I purchased tickets for X-POSED the minute they went on sale.  The only disappointment was it was five full months before I could see Whim W’him perform again.  But I waited, and counted the days, and on May 30th, along with two friends, I took my seat in the Cornish Playhouse in Seattle Center with excitement of knowing I was going to see a good show.  But what I got, was so very much more.

The show opened with a piece called RIPple efFECT, choreographed by10698665_10155628294300035_6475480424128512352_n Manuel Vignoulle.  This piece was a fractured yet fluid contradiction of movement.  The seven company members both pushed against and moved with each other in interesting shapes and levels.  One dancer, Tory Peil, the tallest woman in the company stood atop the shoulders of two other company members, creating a dizzying height to watch from the audience, and continued the spastic, searching movement that both tingled and confused the senses in the most delicious way.  I found myself experiencing anxiety and stress watching the dancers, like watching a suspense film and desperately wanting the hero and 078-Bamberg-Fine-Art-RIPple-efFECT-XLheroine to escape whatever is chasing them r holding them captive.  And just when one or more of the company members would find themselves breaking away from the group, the group117-Bamberg-Fine-Art-RIPple-efFECT-X2 would grab hold and pull the dancer back in the most jarring way creating horizontal pictures of tension, and
the next thing you knew another fascinating vertical shape would be created as they all moved as one.  This choreography was eclectic, volatile, and extremely creative.

The second piece was called Black Heart (in the program was listed with an actual black heart and no words), choreographed by Kate Wallich and featured all seven of the company members.  This piece, oh this piece, moved me in ways I was not ready for and brought out emotions I was not prepared to show and it was glorious!  Ms. Wallich’s movement in this piece was dark, tumultuous and at times, heart wrenching!  Described in the program as “a cacophony of choreography in four parts” is a brilliant description.  And of the four parts, there were two where, once again, Ms. Peil stood out amongst her colleagues, which, trust me, is hard to do in a  company with this much talent.  But Ms. Peil took me on an emotional journey I won’t soon forget.

The costumes in this piece, done by Black Magenta, were stunning all 394-Bamberg-Fine-Art-Black-Heart-X2around, but Ms. Peil’s costumes brought out a whole other level to the story for me. She started in a pair of black tights with a white billowy sheer blouse that showed a black bra beneath.  I point out this costume, because it was such a contrast to all the dark the rest of the company was wearing.  It was the only light piece in an otherwise dark world. And the movement Ms. Wallich gave Ms. Peil added to the contrast.  I found my eyes drawn to her, no matter how I tried to enjoy all the other amazing movements going on by the other company members.  And when the company transitioned to the next part, suddenly Ms. Peil removed the blouse, to now only be wearing black like the rest of the company, and they all moved into a story that will forever hold a place in this dancer lover’s heart.

Three of the men paired off with the three women to create some intricate contemporary partner work, to eventually land all three of the women, and one of the men, expertly danced by Jim Kent, on the floor, lying on their sides, resting back on one elbow, with the other hand rhythmically drumming on their thigh in an invitation, yet the energy from all four was one of empty emotion and dread, and not sensuality, even though the body placement was overtly sensual.  The next moment, the other three men would come and drag the women back, upstage in awkward and somewhat vicious choreography, only to bring them back and lay them back on the floor where the women would resume the sensual position, their hands returning to drumming their thighs suggestively.  This went on and on, andeach time the women were laid on the floor, their energy seemed more and more vacant and emotionless.  And then suddenly, two of the men, Kyle Johnson and Thomas Phelan (pictured) grabbed Ms. Peil at the same time and slung her back, dancing a pas des trios that was filled with innuendo and dark emotion.  These three exceptionally skilled dancers created a moment for me that broke my heart, and yet I could not look away. Her limp body being moved wherever the men positioned her brought tears to my eyes and I found myself silently crying out for it all to stop, and yet was so moved by the dark beauty of what I was watching.

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After this moment was over, and Mr. Johnson and Mr. Phelan laid Ms. Peil on the floor for the last time, the three women took their time standing and walking away from the scene, allowing me to see that Mr. Kent had yet to move from his position of drumming his thigh with his hand, and just when I feared that next would be his turn, Justin Reiter, picked up Mr. Kent, and as if to save him from the fate the women suffered, took him off in a loving embrace that allowed me to take a full breath since this part started.  The tender choreography that followed this had me instantly hearing Lovely Ladies from Les Miserables in my head.  Now, perhaps this isn’t what Ms. Wallich intended at all from her choreography, and I’m projecting my own thoughts on this performance that are a galaxy away from what was intended.  But Ms. Wallich, and the seven company members moved me through an emotional journey that was both dark and lovely at the same time, and is a performance I will never forget.

And when the lights came on and they set up for the final piece, I wasn’t sure that my heart could take much more after the tailspin Ms. Wallich took me on, but little was I to know that in a few short minutes I was going to witness a complete choreography masterpiece from Mr. Wevers, himself.  The final piece was called Alone is the Devil and Mr. Wevers featured Mr. Kent as the solitary human being pushed and manipulated around the floor by the other six company members who were phantoms tempting him with the seven deadly sins.  And people, there are not words for how powerful this piece was, but I will do my best.

In a world where so many things are at our fingertips, everything available at lightning speed through the internet, a phone app, or even a drive thru restaurant, and never truly needing another person to satiate the cravings we all have for Vanity, Lust, Sloth, Greed, Anger, Gluttony and Envy.  Mr. Kent was stunning, again dancing in an all white costume against the phenomenally designed black phantom costumes for the rest of the company, complete with stockings over the face of each of them, stunningly created by Mark Zappone.  619-Bamberg-Fine-Art-Alone-is-the-devil-X2Each dancer in this company is so distinctive, but the minute their faces were covered, it really was difficult to discern who was who, and I found that absolutely mesmerizing.  Mr. Reiter, for example, always stands out to me, and I couldn’t pick him out of the mob.  The beauty of it was it forced me to focus solely on Mr. Kent and the journey he took facing each sin.

Sloth, Greed and Anger blurred for me a bit, but Vanity, oh sweet, beautiful, 11407020_10155644996390035_155476706522849228_nvanity came through the use of a mirror on wheels that the phantoms expertly moved through the space, and Mr. Wevers choreography gave Mr. Kent a perfect vehicle for getting sucked into his own image and then feeling the shattering impact when the phantoms destroyed the mirror.  The special effect of the mirror was one I won’t soon forget.  And just when you think the mirror is no longer part of the show, the phantoms put it back together and Vanity transitioned erotically into Lust!  Lust was luscious, devious, and pushed boundaries of what I’ve seen in other dance shows in the most sensual, seductive and tantalizing way.  I was completely turned on by the images Mr. Wever and his company brought to life and just when I didn’t think I could take another moment of the erotic frolicking happening on that stage, they transitioned into Gluttony, and Gluttony broke my heart.

I know so many people battling obesity, myself included, and the way Gluttony was portrayed was by the use of fast food bags.  Starting out small, phantoms stuck them on Mr. Kent’s hands.  Then larger backs on top of those, large enough to engulf his hands and go up to his forearms.  Then larger bags came, and eventually a huge bag came that they put over his 569-Bamberg-Fine-Art-Alone-is-the-devil-XLhead, and the phantoms began to beat him around the stage with the bags, the sound of paper hitting Mr. Kent’s body was harrowing and heart wrenching, and he couldn’t see them, he couldn’t fight them, he was helpless to do anything against the danger Gluttony was doing to his physical being, and when they finally jumped off of him, all the paper bags, including the one from his head, were shoved into his tank top creating a very obese person, unhealthy from the Gluttony he’s been engaging in, and it was the saddest most terrifying moment and it literally took my breath away.

The piece ended with Mr. Kent turning in to a phantom and another company member, taking his place, showing that the cycle never ends.  Mr. Wevers created one of the most honest slices of life through art that I have ever seen, and it moved everyone in the audience.  How do I know?  Because when the piece ended, and the lights went out, there was that moment.  You know the one, right?  That delicious pause while everyone lets out the breath they’ve been holding and wraps their mind around the fact that the show is over and what they just saw was real and amazing.  And as the amazement kicks in, so do the applause.

It was not even a question but to jump to my feet in honor of the art I saw at Whim W’him’s latest show.  I wish it was still running so you all could go see it, because it was stellar, it was emotional, it was raw, it was honest, and it was brilliant all the way around.  This company has made a life long fan out of this reviewer, so much so, that I will be a season ticket member starting next season.

If you love dance, if you love creative expression, and if you love seeing true artists at the top of their craft, I highly encourage you to join me in becoming a season ticket subscriber for Whim W’him.  Information on ways to subscribe and donate can be found here.

They entertained my face off!  Loved it!  Adored it!  Can’t wait to see what they do next!! Bravo!

Ciao for now,

M sm

Press photos – Bamberg Fine Art

Othello at Seattle Shakespeare Company in Seattle, WA

Entertainment Review, play review, Theatre Review

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People!  People, people, people!!  Finally, a night of theatre I’m thrilled and excited to write about!  My only sadness was that I saw closing night’s performance, so if you missed this one, you missed out on a good one!

Shakespeare’s plays are among my favorites on the planet.  I love them so very very much, and Othello has two of my favorite characters at the heart of the story: Iago and Desdemona. And this production, people, this production had two of the strongest actors I have seen in a lonnnnnnng ass time on that stage bringing these two characters to life in a way that was fresh, powerful, and moving!

11150544_10152766624677539_7224202587430685503_nLet us start with the beautiful and amazing Hillary Clemens who played Desdemona.  Ms. Clemens was beautiful and a striking dichotomy of strength and femininity from the moment she stepped on stage to secretly marry Othello.  Her girlish excitement mixed with her womanly sensuality was refreshing and mesmerizing at the same time!  And as the play went on, as she fell more and more in love with her husband, stood up to her father, and lobbied for what was right for Cassio, I just fell more and more into the spell Ms. Clemens weaved around the stage.  Every moment was filled with clear intention, stunning choices, and brave movement!  Every moment was real and stunning, all coming together to create something that I love to experience in plays I’ve seen before, which is that moment where you hope the end will be different. SheSSC_Othello_2105-676 was so perfect, this Desdemona, that as she undressed, and stepped into her bath, the knowing of what was to come upon her face, the fear of her fate taunting her as she sank into the water of her bath, and I sat there, wishing and praying for a different ending to this tragedy of the Bard’s, knowing full well my prayers would not be answered.

And when the ending occurred, and the lovely Desdemona’s life was taken 31f503f8-f452-11e4-8407-cdb4c0ba9c49-300x449by the one man she was absolutely and completely devoted to was done with such a horrific beauty, that it took my breath away.  A familiar scene blocked so epically, stunningly violently that I was filled with shock, awe, and absolute despair at the moment Desdemona took her last breath.  I know Othello, played by Sean Phillips, was on the stage with Ms. Clemens, but honestly, I couldn’t take my eyes from her throughout the entire scene.  And as my eyes filled with tears as Othello smothered her last haggard breath with a pillow from their wedding linens, I couldn’t look away, because I didn’t want to miss a minute.  The tears fell for the loss of this beautiful creature who was the shining star of this wonderful production.

And as bright as Ms. Clemens’s Desdemona was, the dark, spiteful Iago was deliciously brought to life by one Mr. Darragh Kennan.  11148643_10152788267257539_316701078473174228_nOh, Mr. Kennan, where have you been all my life?!?!  Iago, my favorite villain, because his villainy is caused out of circumstance.  He’s seeing revenge in it’s purest form, and as the play goes on you can’t help but wonder what would have happened had he not been passed over.  There’s a human aspect to Iago that I’ve always adored, and Mr. Kennan played that human aspect perfectly!  His opening soliloquy was so brilliant, and set the tone for this amazing production.  Mr. Kennan captured the audience from his first word, and held it until his last moment.  Much like Ms. Clemens, Mr. Kennan’s choices were brave and brilliant.  His intentions so clear, his ability to listen was phenomenal, and his reactions so true and honest and in the moment, he made me proud to be an actor!

His devious plan came to life, his puppet mastery knew no bounds.  His interactions with the audience were perfectly placed, wonderfully executed, and I found myself spellbound by this unbelievably talented actor so much so that I was actually disappointed when the story was over.  Mr. Kennan commanded that stage, and made every scene he was in stronger, especially when it came to Mr. Phillips’s Othello.  I didn’t so much care for Mr. Phillips performance, but I’ll get to that, however, when he was on stage with Mr. Kennan, those scenes were his strongest, because Mr. Kennan brings out the best in his scene partners!  He anchored this show so well, that I found myself rooting for Iago because, dammit, he was likeable!  Thank you, Mr. Kennan for that performance.  I am better for having seen you creating art!  Thank you!

The cast as a whole was strong, although I did find Othello to be the weakest performance, which is hard to type, but it’s how I felt.  Mr. Phillips came out on a level 10 intensity and volume with speaking his lines.  He gave himself nowhere to go, nowhere to grow throughout the show.  His choices were not clear, and rather than play his intention, I found him playing his obstacle the entire time, and it drove me nuts.  It was hard to stay engaged in the story when every time Mr. Phillips opened his mouth, especially in the first half, he was shouting at everyone rather than connecting with them.  He was very one note throughout the performance.  Until the end.  That level of intensity was beautifully done during Desdemona’s death scene, and when he came upon her sleeping in her bath, it was one of the most beautifully staged scenes I’ve ever seen.  And when Othello kisses Desdemona those three times, again, Mr. Phillips had me hoping that maybe, just maybe, this time Othello wouldn’t kill his wife.  And his intensity of throwing Ms. Clemens around the stage, of holding her under the water of the bath, screaming out his lines of betrayal, it was beautifully balanced and wonderfully done.  So while I was underwhelmed by Mr. Phillips for most of the show, I did truly love his murder scene.

I must also give accolades to a few of the other characters whose performances were wonderful.  Bianca, played by the fiery Keiko Green 11150697_10152766624707539_4007719442217679389_nwas one of my favorites!  She had one of the best exit scenes I’ve seen in a long time.  Loved her passion and her fire and her commitment to this character.  I also really enjoyed Rodrigo, played by Trick Danneker.  If Bianca was walking fire, Rodrigo was walking air!  10982881_10152766624692539_7212443055923358395_nHe was adorable, and vulnerable, and malleable and the perfect puppet for Iago to master.  His death scene was so heartbreaking, and everything up until then was delightful.  I applaud both of these actors on a job well done!

I also have to applaud the designers of this show.  The costumes were great on everyone from the soldiers to the women to the Duke.  Powerful pieces, bold pops of color, and the white dress that Desdemona wears in the final scenes was inspired.  Bravo, Doris Black, bravo! 11204428_10152766624712539_1879978597553697404_n

And the costumes were lit by the brilliant Geoff Korf!  Oh, the lights in this show!  They were stunning!  There’s no other word for them.  They created intimate moments, powerful moments, sinister moments with seamless brilliance.  And as I said, the moment that Othello comes upon Desdemona sleeping in her bath is one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever seen on stage.  I’d give anything for a photo of that moment.  Thank you, Mr. Korf.

The set was also amazing in it’s simplicity.  I loved the neutrality of the colors of the set, the genius of the moving platforms, and the ability of the set to turn into a large projection screen for Othello’s dark thoughts to come to life was erotic magic!  Loved it!

My hat goes off to the director of this show, John Langs.  The concept was clear, inspired, and brilliantly executed.  Mr. Langs had a strong team around him to bring his vision to life, and was so lucky to have this cast to bring his moments to life as well.  I will be looking for future productions from Mr. Langs, because I was truly moved by this production!

Being as opinionated as I am about theatre, it takes a lot to get me out of my seat at the end of a production to show the actors how much I enjoyed their show, and I didn’t even hesitate to stand at the end of this one.  Thank you all for a much needed night of good theatre!  You made me a very happy Lady!  My only regret is I didn’t go sooner so that I could have seen it more than once.

Adored, loved, and will not soon forget it!

Ciao for now,

M sm

Photos from Seattle Shakespeare Company’s Facebook page.