January 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!
The 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!
So 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.
There’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!
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,
Images from Bamberg Fine Art and Whim W’Him’s Facebook Page