The first of a weekend of showcases featuring local dance artists included performances by Coriolis, Peggy Piacenza, Alice Gosti and others.
When dancers KT Niehoff and Michelle Miller moved to Seattle from New York in 1992, they fell in love with the city but were shocked to discover a small, struggling contemporary dance community.
Niehoff and Miller decided the only way they could stay here and pursue their art was to create their own dance community. The result was Velocity Dance Center, a place where dancers could take classes and create their own, often experimental, work.
Today, Velocity is the center of a thriving contemporary dance community with an annual season kickoff featuring performances by a combination of established and emerging dancers and choreographers. This year, there are 20 different works on three separate programs through Sunday; some of the pieces are excerpts from existing dances while others are small works-in-progress.
Through Sept. 27, Velocity Dance Center, 1621 12th Ave., Seattle; $10-$25 single tickets, $50 for all-access pass (206-325-8773 or velocitydancecenter.org).
On Thursday’s first showcase, there was only one work — Coriolis’ “Transit of Metis” — that left a lasting impression. Four leggy women slid through a series of poses, often pushing or twisting each other’s bodies into elongated and elegant positions. The dancers — co-artistic directors Christin Call and Natascha Greenwalt plus Katherine Murphy and Marissa Quimby — clearly have strong ballet training as they extended into beautiful arabesques or moved through the basic five positions that begin every ballet class. But “Transit of Metis” is not a formal lesson in ballet technique; there’s a crooked foot here, a collapsed torso there that make the work a distinctly contemporary take on ballet’s extreme control and discipline.
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The other established choreographers on this first program made odd choices for their presentations. Peggy Piacenza showed a brief video excerpt from her full-length “Touch Me Here,” in which she rolls across city streets on her way to buying a cup of coffee. Although the full “Touch Me Here” wasn’t entirely successful, it did contain a number of arresting vignettes, so it’s hard to understand why Piacenza chose one that doesn’t begin to demonstrate her prowess.
Alice Gosti’s excerpt from “The Herd” was equally disappointing. The work opened with seven women, clad in backless red jumpsuits, walking slowly toward the audience. They suggested menacing aliens, and for a moment we felt that we were in real danger. But then the dancers moved into a series of pedestrian postures that lacked both physical appeal and emotional content.
Rounding out this opening program were works by other emerging choreographers. Even if their contributions weren’t particularly compelling or innovative, it’s exciting to see young artists stretching themselves in a setting and before an audience that makes it safe to take chances.