The biennial Against the Grain/Men in Dance festival is becoming an annual affair — and this year’s showcase will include instant feedback from choreographer Mark Haim, dance professor Lodi McClellan and others.
Even the most ardent fans of the Men in Dance festival have complained about it: Why can’t it happen every year instead of every two years?
Well, their wish is on its way to coming true.
This year, Against the Grain/Men in Dance is producing a “2015 Adjudicated Choreographers Showcase” as a first step toward eventually mounting a dance show on an annual basis. In the meantime, co-founder Richard Jessup said in a phone interview last week, this two-night affair at Velocity Dance Center (rather than the usual Broadway Performance Hall venue) is “the version we came up with this year.”
Against the Grain/Men in Dance: ‘2015 Adjudicated Choreographers Showcase’
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (Oct. 16-17), Velocity Dance Center, 1621 12th Ave., Seattle; $15-$20 (800-838-3006 or menindance.org).
The showcase will feature five choreographers (out of nearly 40 who submitted work) who have never been featured at ATG/MID before. They include Walla Walla-based Peter de Grasse, formerly of Spectrum Dance Theater and Staatstheater Darmstadt, and three emerging Seattle choreographers: Jamie Karlovich, Laura Rodriguez and Dylan Ward.
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The fifth entry comes from New York-based Gierre Godley’s Project 44, an all-male company whose push-and-pull partnering technique offers both incisive drama and a tangy dynamism.
The format for “Showcase” is unusual. Act one consists of the five pieces. Act two brings well-known local dance figures onstage to give feedback to the choreographers and dancers.
The panelists for Oct. 16 are performance artist Christian Swenson, self-described “arts wrangler” Vanessa DeWolf and Cornish College of the Arts dance professor Lodi McClellan. Oct. 17 features lighting designer Meg Fox and dancers/choreographers Mark Haim and Jason Ohlberg.
Audience feedback will also be solicited, and at least one “Showcase” performer will be invited back to present work at the 2016 Men in Dance festival.
Jessup says he and his collaborators hope “Showcase” will make younger artists feel “more engaged” in the Seattle dance scene. Even if all the choreographers are new, some dancers will be familiar to Men in Dance audiences, Jessup says, simply due to a still-persistent shortage of male performers in the dance world.
ATG/MID took another significant step toward growth this month by hiring its first paid employee. Until now, the nonprofit organization — which staged its first festival in 1996 — was run entirely by volunteers.
The selections in “Showcase” seem well-chosen to help build momentum for ATG/MID. Project 44’s paired pieces, “The Twins” and “Misfit,” portray two men living in restless reliance on each other and an outsider who tries to crack their coupledom open.
Peter de Grasse is a marvelous mover, slithery and panther-like. Longtime Spectrum fans may remember his eerie performance in the title role of Donald Byrd’s “Miraculous Mandarin” nine years ago.
The other three offerings also sound promising. Karlovich’s piece is described as a rhythmic spin on a “square dance-inspired piece of music.” Rodriguez explores “a grid of restrictions,” which alludes to video games and the “Tron” movies. Ward’s piece, for four dancers, investigates “the uneven power dynamic between gay and straight male friends.”
As stated on its website, ATG/MID’s mission is to celebrate and promote performances by “male dance artists of all genres and ages.”
“Showcase” looks like a savvy step forward.