A review of Jessica Lang Dance, at UW’s Meany Center through Nov. 12.
Choreographer Jessica Lang knows that less can be more.
She has a knack for making a few minutes of dance evoke a whole world, and for parlaying twenty minutes into an entire cosmos.
As for ten minutes, that’s a nice little planetary system.
Jessica Lang Dance
8 p.m. Nov. 11 and 12, Meany Hall, University of Washington, Seattle; $45-$50 (206-543-4880 or meanycenter.org).
Seattle is the fourth stop on Jessica Lang Dance’s 29-city tour, and the five pieces on the program make clear the 2014 Bessie Award-winner is a dazzling talent. Her gifts for kaleidoscopic pattern-making and kinetic flow recall the best of choreographer Crystal Pite.
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“Solo Bach,” a virtuosic bauble of a piece, kicks things off. Originally created for Lang’s husband, Alvin Ailey dancer Kanji Segawa, it’s tackled here by Patrick Coker. Among its quirks: some “air violin” playing (the score is a Bach partita) and some springy gymnastic maneuvers.
“Sweet Silent Thought” explores the rules of attraction between lanky marvel Milan Misko and three other dancers — one male, two female. The action is swift, tripping, tangled, buoyant and exquisitely precise. While the piece’s default mode seems to be male-female pairing, there’s a wild-card connection between the men that, if not overtly erotic, keeps grabbing center stage.
“Thousand Yard Stare,” for all nine dancers, is plainly a masterpiece, inspired in part by Lang’s time with military veterans whose drawings are incorporated into the performers’ costumes.
In silence, a dance variation on a parade-ground drill starts to stir, building up to a rhythmic tattoo of foot-stomps and hand claps. The music commences (the adagio from Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132) and a study in tight camaraderie and repeated loss unfolds.
Lang incorporates basic-training maneuvers and battlefield reaction in her movement, but with so light a hand that their detail seems to slip organically out of all the dance’s other elements. The connection between dancers — as between soldiers — couldn’t be more trusting or visceral.
“The Calling,” recently seen at Pacific Northwest Ballet, finds dancer Kana Kimura in a white dress that spreads in a 12-foot-wide pool around her. Exploring all its possibilities, Kimura appears to sink into the stage, twist into a white column and make a dance partner of her extravagant garment.
The show’s finale, “Tesseracts of Time,” combines stagecraft and video wizardry to dreamlike, disorienting effect. Famed architect Steven Holl (a University of Washington graduate) created the piece with Lang. Her nine dancers move at times like a single 18-limbed body, organism guided by one curious mind, with individuals shearing off from the group, only to regather.
It’s challenging at times to distinguish what’s happening on video from what’s happening in the flesh. Holl’s structuring of stage space shows scant regard for the rules of gravity or perspective. Moving from murky shadow to sharp black-and-white to eye-popping color, “Tesseracts” culminates in a vision of light.
Lang has a Georgia O’Keeffe-inspired piece coming to PNB in March. I can’t wait.