Seattle's KT Niehoff and Lingo Dance explore the depths of the psyche in "A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light."

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Dance review |

Coming into ACT’s Bullitt Cabaret for “A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light,” the new production by KT Niehoff’s Lingo Dance, is a bit like entering a costume party.

Onstage a band plays, while here and there around the room dancers in feathery, fanciful costumes gently gyrate. There’s a bar on the balcony, and three black mats on the main floor where it seems someone might perform. But there isn’t much in the way of seating — and what little there is gives you no clue as to where the “show” is going to be.

OK, you think, this is going to be some sort of laid-back “happening.”

No, no, my friend — you’re about to embark on a glittery excursion through the depths of the psyche.

The focus of “Glimmer” is on sex and struggle, ritual and appetite, tension and breakdown. Once the lights dim and the show starts happening all around you, it assumes a sometimes nightmarish power. And like a nightmare, it unfolds unpredictably.

You need to move around the room, following the dancers, if you want to take it all in. But as you move, you may well find yourself smack in the middle of things.

Bianca Cabrera, Ricki Mason, Michael Rioux and Aaron Swartzman are the stars here, giving it their all as they pair up in different combinations for duets that can seem closer to wrestling matches than dance … until an artful lift or athletic shift in balance reveals the degree to which some passages are deliberately choreographed.

Still, this is rough stuff. No move seems out of bounds. No mood seems taboo. And every inch of the Bullitt Cabaret is utilized.

A chorus of “showgirls” follows the action, sometimes deriding it, sometimes egging it on. A “Lead Showgirl” (Kelly Sullivan) is especially aggressive in the way she tries to intercept the activities of the four key figures.

A mesmeric electronic score by Scott Coburn helps hold the turbulence together. His efforts alternate with Ivory Smith’s live band, Ivory in Ice World, with Lingo director Niehoff joining in on vocals (Smith provides ethereal touches, while Niehoff has a chilly, Grace Slick-like power).

Evan Ritter’s lighting actively directs the audience here and there as the next phase of the show unfolds, sometimes catching viewers in the full glare of the spotlight. The surreal costumes (by Niehoff, Mason, Alex Martin and Joanne Witzkowski) and makeup (Ben Delacreme) are prizeworthy.

“Glimmer,” with its nudity and profanity, won’t be for everyone. But it couldn’t be more assured in the way it lures its audience down into the realms of the unconscious.

Michael Upchurch: mupchurch@seattletimes.com