In “#unprotected,” Whim W’Him’s artistic director Olivier Wevers has done the nearly impossible, offering us a beautifully balanced mixed-bill program of three world premieres that are all equally compelling.
Although the three works are dramatically different in look, style and emotional tenor, they all contain striking visual imagery, as well as a deep affinity for music and theatrical flair. And they all showcase the elongated lines and dramatic skills of Whim W’Him’s seven talented dancers.
The program, presented at Capitol Hill’s Erickson Theater, opens with Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s “Les Biches” and the arresting image of a lone female dancer caught in a spotlight. She is clad in a flesh-colored leotard and oversized bathing cap, but her most dramatic features are bright-red talons that extend from her fingertips.
Soon she is joined by three other “biches” (French for does, or female deer) in the same costumes. Together they begin a series of seductive twists and undulations, sometimes in unison, sometimes in pairs or trios, sometimes each in her own sphere.
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More than anything, they suggest a group of alien Amazons enticing us into their sensual universe. And the enticement works. Ochoa creates an alternate world through a kaleidoscope of haunting images — with support from Michael Mazzola’s brilliant, magical lighting — from which it is impossible to avert one’s eyes.
With the second work, Andrew Bartee’s “I’m not here but it’s not the same,” the mood changes completely. The stage is darkened, barely revealing five dancers clad in black jeans and blue hoodies. They seem like contemporary monks acting out daily prayers in a series of inventive, walking steps, facing away from us almost the entire time. Finally one “monk” (an elegant Lara Seefeldt) separates from the rest, and, in the final moments, wanders offstage to the notes of Beethoven’s glorious “Moonlight Sonata.”
This is Bartee’s most sophisticated ballet to date; hopefully he’ll continue his choreographic development after he joins Ballet BC as a dancer this summer.
Concluding the program is Wevers’ “Above the Cloud,” a tour de force of dancing with props — huge, fluffy white pillows. This is an expansive ballet with almost nonstop gliding movements that at times resemble ice dancing. The pas de deux for Tori Peil and Kyle Johnson is especially dazzling as he turns her into intricate shapes or they slide together across the stage.
Once again, Wevers demonstrates his versatility. With its deep into- and on-the-ground movement, “Cloud” represents Wevers’ constantly evolving inventiveness — and his ability to create a first-rate company capable of a diverse and challenging repertoire.
Alice Kaderlan is a writer on the arts and other subjects, based in Seattle. AliceKaderlan@comcast.net.