Seattle’s Coriolis Dance Collective has an experimental bent, collaborates energetically with local choreographers and pursues its goals with “shoestring tenacity” (to quote from the troupe’s website).
Founded and led by dancers Christin Call and Natascha Greenwalt Murphy, it’s been around for half a decade now. To celebrate its fifth anniversary, the company is looking both forward and backward in an evening that mixes revivals of works from its archive with a world premiere or two.
“Co-LAB 5,” as it’s called, has both high points and frustrations. An excerpt from Greenwalt Murphy’s “Tethered Apparitions” — a stunner of a duet, mixing gymnastic strength with elegant form — was far too brief. On the other hand, a new piece by Call, “The gentle abduction of Esther Williams,” was a one-note joke that went on far too long (and thankfully isn’t on the program next weekend).
Some pieces hit the sweet spot, though.
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Andrea Larreta’s “Depicting Verbs,” also a world premiere, is a solo dance that draws on Larreta’s studies of American Sign Language to create movement. Performed in silence, it’s an unusually potent piece, as Larreta keeps trying to convey a message in gestures and signs and failing repeatedly.
Larreta’s facial expression is extraordinarily eloquent, and her frustration at not getting her signal through quickly veers into disgust with herself. At times, it’s almost as if she’s trying to wipe her failed attempts off her hands and body … before taking a deep breath, stepping back up with a smile, and trying all over again.
If “Depicting Verbs” is the most succinct and striking piece in “Co-LAB 5,” it has some good company. Zoe Scofield’s “when we were young II” (from 2010) is both spare and incisive, often pitting one performer (guest artist Hannah Crowley) against a chorus of three (Call, Greenwalt Murphy and Marissa Quimby). There’s something pleasurably severe about Scofield’s work. It’s stylized, but with a feral edge and slow tension to it that seem to stem from a sense of being immobilized in a dream.
(Note: Joel Myers — a former Spectrum dancer who’s much missed on Seattle stages — replaces Crowley the second weekend of “Co-LAB 5.” It will be fun to see how his wiry male presence in Scofield’s piece will change its dynamics.)
Rainbow Fletcher’s “Deciduous Urge” (also from 2010) is a more antic, acrobatic affair performed, at least at the start, in black ski masks and billowing white shirts. Fletcher is the choreographer for the Can Can Castaways, and it’s often said that she has a knack for sneaking modern-dance rigors into burlesque routines. But the dance-step traffic goes in the opposite direction too.
“Deciduous Urge” may not feature overt bump-and-grind, but it does include copious amounts of hair-extension swinging. (Let one of those braided suckers hit you, and you might get badly bruised.) Quimby, Greenwalt Murphy and Philip Borunda are standouts in some impressively acrobatic duets.
Lauren Edson’s “Real Gone” opens the showcase. Mixing challenging balletic flourishes with flirty pop-dance moves, it’s a crazy mix-and-match that doesn’t really hang together dramatically. But its dancers — Quimby, Larreta, Greenwalt Murphy, Danny Boulet and Sylvain Boulet — all have notable moments. And the neo-1960s floral dresses by Tesee George are a fizzy kick.
Final verdict: This “best of” doesn’t necessarily highlight all of this troupe’s strengths, but it does reaffirm its spirit of adventure.
Michael Upchurch: email@example.com