Seattle choreographer Kate Wallich reverts to pure, abstract dance in her new piece, “Dream Dances” — and that’s a big relief.

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Seattle choreographer Kate Wallich reverts to pure, abstract dance in her new piece, “Dream Dances” — and that’s a big relief.

In recent projects, including “Industrial Ballet” (billed as “‘Black Swan’ Meets Nine Inch Nails”) and “Splurge Land” (which aimed to plumb “the highs, lows, hopes and fears of the post-Internet generation”), Wallich sometimes tried to graft Big Statements onto a dance sensibility that couldn’t easily accommodate them. Plenty of fine dancing was involved, but its meaning was murky at best.

“Dream Dances,” from the get-go, tosses out all concerns with literal meaning. By dwelling so insistently in the realm of the subconscious, Wallich sets herself and her dancers/collaborators free. There’s no easy way to say where “Dream Dances” takes you — but it does undeniably lure you and immerse you somewhere far from the workaday world.


Kate Wallich + The YC: ‘Dream Dances’

8 p.m. Dec. 8 and 9, 5 p.m. Dec. 10. On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., Seattle; $23-$30 (206-217-9886 or

The setting is a vast, near-empty stage with a pile of black plastic at one end and an installation that seems half-barbed-wire, half-briar-patch, looming at the rear. As the audience waits for the show to start, five dancers come onstage one by one, at leisurely intervals. Lying on their sides on the floor, they occasionally extend their arms languidly in the air, then let them silkily drop again. A soft, high-pitched electronic score (performed live by Johnny Goss and Andrew J.S.) sets an elastic rhythm that oh-so-gradually teases out evolutions in the dancers’ movements.

The simple rise and fall of a limb starts growing more multidimensional. Bodies tentatively rise, then are floor-bound again. Each of the dancers has a private vocabulary of movement-phrases — springy, intricate, cannily underplayed — that they try out at increasing speeds.

It’s a small shock when a foot-tap or body-slap adds a percussive element to the mix. It’s startling, too, when one dancer, and then another, takes a few steps, turns in a new direction and claims a new position onstage. Even the inanimate objects don’t behave as expected.

“Dream Dances” was created by distilling company dancers’ dreams into improvisations and crystallizing those improvisations into closely patterned choreography. In her program notes, Wallich acknowledges her deep interest in “duration, line, intersections, direction, facings, repetition, rigorous phrase material, and meditative states.”

That may sound dry, but each dancer’s distinctive way of inhabiting his/her body makes it fascinating. Thomas House is an eccentric wonder, delivering tilts, ripples and curlicue extensions of his limbs that half-resemble mime or sign language in their specificity. Lavinia Vago’s progress includes “accidental” falls and sliding knee maneuvers. Wallich keeps her own appearances to a minimum, apparently wanting to let her collaborators shine.

Amiya Brown’s lighting design — sometimes harsh, sometimes dim — is subject to startling transitions. So is the score, which ranges from faint intimation to frenzied assault.

By playing to her strengths in “Dream Dances,” Wallich casts a spell.