The Seattle choreographer remounts her sensual dance spectacle — with furs, flesh and a stuffed crow — in ACT’s basement cabaret theater.
In 2010, choreographer KT Niehoff turned ACT’s Bullitt Cabaret into a fantasy world of exotic creatures engaging in a sometimes-disturbing series of human interactions. The entire venue, including its grand staircase and balcony, became the performance space; there was no seating, and both dancers and viewers moved around each other to create or follow vignettes that were often raw and confrontational.
Niehoff has now revised the 90-minute work, adding performers and several new sections while retaining the air of mystery that made the original “A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light” so memorable.
The magic begins on entering the room. As the audience mills around, waiting for the show to start, performers in fanciful “showgirl” costumes and ghoulish makeup meander through, occasionally commenting on what a patron is wearing or offering a welcome. A live, three-piece band begins playing while a female vocalist starts to croon “La vie en rose.”
‘A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light’
Oct. 30-Nov. 14, ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle; $20-$35 (292-7676 or acttheatre.org).
Has the show started? Or will something happen to let us know when it does? The uncertainty creates a feeling of unease and sets the stage for what becomes an immersive experience in which a dancer might push you aside while clearing a path or run past you, stark naked, screaming “Never came back!”
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The most dancelike parts of “Glimmer” are various solos and duets on three small dance floors. Niehoff’s choreography is intense and violent, and the feelings she depicts are more tortured than loving.
The “coven” of dancers — Amy Clem, Patrick Kilbane, Ainesh Madan, Meredith Sallee and Antonio Somera — are powerful and agile, twisting and turning themselves into kinetic pretzel shapes as they seem to wrestle with their own inner demons, or each other.
The “showgirls” are equally adept as they slink their way up the staircase or through the crowd, with lead showgirl Molly Sides the embodiment of an erotic fantasy. The music (a prerecorded score by Scott Colburn and live music by Ivory Smith and Niehoff) adds to the tension as it alternates between crashing electronics and melodic tunes.
Despite the choreographic vignettes — including an opening sequence with Zoe Scofield and Ty Vennewitz — the costumes are the most breathtaking. They’re almost wearable sculpture with feathers, netting, fur, branches, crystals, sparkles and even a stuffed raven. Some of the garments seem like they could take flight on their own while others enhance the show’s sexual directness with peek-a-boo glimpses of the dancers’ silky skin and rippling muscles.
By creating such a wondrous alternate universe, Niehoff leads us on a spellbinding journey of imagination and intimacy.