For the second year in a row, a venerable Seattle performance arts organization — as with so many others in the city — has found a creative way to bring the world to our homes in the midst of a pandemic.
Now in its 15th year, the Seattle International Dance Festival (SIDF) was faced, as it was at this time in 2020, with what to do about its upcoming annual Winter Mini Fest. Originally intended, at its creation four years ago, to be a burst of offseason programming over a few nights, the Mini Fest extends the reach of SIDF in a calendar year, builds crucial relationships with such partners as Cornish College of the Arts, and adds to what festival director Cyrus Khambatta refers to as “the ecology of dance in Seattle.”
But last year, says Khambatta, as the reality of COVID-19 was striking all of us, the Mini Fest “had to go virtual, essentially overnight.” This year, not only are Khambatta, a celebrated choreographer, and his Seattle-based SIDF host organization, Khambatta Dance Company, ready again to reinvent the wheel, they’re prepared to take an online audience from Capitol Hill’s Erickson Theatre to a couple of cities in Israel.
The virtual 4th Annual SIDF Winter Mini Fest runs four nights, March 6-7 and 13-14. It’s a combination of live and recently filmed dance performances featuring the work of four choreographers and companies. In addition to seeing performances, home audiences will be able to participate in live talkback events, asking questions of and communicating directly with featured companies in Seattle, Tel Aviv and Nazareth.
Besides Khambatta and his eponymous company, the artists involved include Shahar Binyamini, a former Batsheva Dance Company dancer turned choreographer; Tel Aviv-based video-dance innovator Roni Chadash; and Shaden Abu Elasal, a Palestinian choreographer from Israel. The latter’s work focuses on the Arab culture of Nazareth.
Below is an overview of this year’s highlights, with quoted descriptions from the festival.
March 6 and 7
Binyamini’s “Paradiso” captures “dancers in stark intimacy within the courtyard of a stately white stone building, which acts as a majestic backdrop.”
Chadash’s “Body #1” sews two dancers “together through physical movement, so close they almost seem like one animal — primal, passionate and flowing.”
In Binyamini’s second work for the fest, “Evolve,” the dancers desire “union but seem torn. Using intense physical exertion, they try to understand each other, writhing in an excruciating battle of wills.”
Khambatta’s “Morning to Night” pairs dancers and Seattle street sculptures to reveal “a tactile and textured cinematic collage of bodies against urban terrain.”
March 6 includes a live talkback with Seattle and Israeli dancers.
March 13 and 14
Shot in Nazareth, Elasal’s “Trilogy” defines place “as a repository of memories, hopes, disappointments, aspirations, anguish and joy.”
Chadash’s “No-Body” goes “beyond dance to play with perceptions of the viewer and the notion of a personal comfort zone.”
Khambatta’s “The Invitation” imagines “a steampunk allegory casting humans with animal characteristics in a wonderland. Shot on location at a Seattle city park, Fremont Abbey and private homes, the work centers around a magic door that acts as a portal to an alternate reality.”
A live talkback with dancers will take place March 14.