Every June, just as the main dance season in Seattle is winding down, choreographer Cyrus Khambatta’s Seattle International Dance Festival gives local dance fans a major fix. This year the festival takes place June 13-22, with several new components and an even stronger presence in the South Lake Union neighborhood that SIDF calls home.
The main event is two full weekends of performances at Raisbeck Hall by international artists and companies from as far away as Romania, Brazil, Peru, India, China and Germany (International Series), and a range of local artists and companies (Spotlight on Seattle).
On the International Series, the most provocative performance (June 21) is likely to be a solo work by Romania’s Cristina Lilienfeld that questions contemporary views of the female body. Lilienfeld is completely nude and spectators are asked to write on her body what they think about it. The work requires a willingness to be vulnerable on the part of both artist and audience, breaking the “fourth wall” that typically keeps the two at a comfortable distance.
Audience participation is an essential component of another work as well, by France’s Collectif Random (June 15). The troupe often performs on city streets, but here it will take over Raisbeck Hall — theater, lobby, backstage and staircases — to create an immersive experience.
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Other productions on the International Series come from Sumeet Nagdev Dance Arts from India (June 20), which will offer a piece about the director’s interaction with a homeless person, and a dance inspired by the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer from Brazil’s Paulo Lima & Experimentus (June 13-14). Sharing the program with the Brazilian troupe is Khambatta’s own Seattle-based company, presenting a revised version of a new ballet it recently performed in India and throughout the Northwest.
Several of the productions on the International Series represent collaborations by choreographers from different countries and different backgrounds. One of the most intriguing is a new joint work by Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer Ezra Thomson, who is embarking on his choreographic career, and Massive Monkees director Jerome Aparis (June 20). Khambatta calls the piece a “collision” between street dance and ballet.
As in past years, Raisback Hall performances will feature a range of local artists and companies in the Spotlight on Seattle series (June 17-19).
This time around the series will become a competition of sorts; each night, one artist or company will be awarded a prize of $500; winners receive mentoring from local choreographers Donald Byrd and Dayna Hansen and one will be invited to present a new work at next year’s festival. Among the local artists participating in Spotlight on Seattle are Kate Wallich, Markeith Wiley and Alia Swersky.
Other aspects of SIDF are workshops for dancers from across the United States (Threshold Institute) and, for the first time, a round-table discussion of innovative ways to fund artists and arts organizations.
The Festival kicks off June 13 with a free dance party and street fair called Art on the Fly; the party continues the next afternoon in the same location on Terry Avenue.
With site-specific dances, a family-friendly DJ dance party, impromptu dance classes, flash mobs, vendors, music and food, the goal of Art on the Fly (besides drawing audiences to the paid performances) is to give the community at large a chance to get physical.
“Every time I mention that I’m in dance people tell me ‘I used to dance’ or ‘my child takes dance lessons,’ ” Khambatta says. “So this is designed to get everyone to engage with dance.”
The festival concludes at 10 p.m. on June 21 with the mysterious Sanity Café, an artist-driven late-night cabaret performance whose SLU location isn’t revealed until 24 hours in advance.
Seattle-based journalist Alice Kaderlan writes on the arts and other subjects.