The stark “Shot” is the first installment of Spectrum’s 2017 season, collectively titled “American — Identity, Race, or Culture?” It runs through Feb. 4 at Seattle Repertory Theatre.
At the heart of Spectrum Dance Theater’s “Shot” is something known as “The Talk.”
It’s the conversation that African-American parents have with their children, particularly their sons, when they’re old enough to start going out on their own. The Talk offers rules for survival that youngsters should keep in mind, “especially when it comes to encounters with the police.”
Spectrum director Donald Byrd reads these rules out — “Calm down … Keep your hands visible … Have your identification handy” — in a tone both dispassionate and weary.
7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 4. Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St., Seattle; $21-$42 (206-443-2222 or seattlerep.org)
The Talk may help in some cases, but it’s not a foolproof solution.
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“Shot” is the first installment of Spectrum’s 2017 season, collectively titled “American — Identity, Race, or Culture?” While it goes into lecture mode roughly halfway through its 70-minute length, it’s primarily a dance-and-multimedia piece.
Byrd’s starting point was the reaction of Rakeyia Scott as her husband, Keith Lamont Scott, was killed by police in Charlotte, N.C., in 2016. She caught it all on a cellphone video that went viral.
“The worry, fear, and the possibility of a deadly outcome in her voice before the shooting,” Byrd writes in his program notes, “broke my heart.”
Rakeyia’s video and other smartphone recordings of similar incidents are the source for the intense and volatile world the dancers inhabit. Travis Mouffe’s digitally manipulated video projections and Rob Witmer’s sound design create an atmosphere of uncertainty and menace as the action unfolds on Jack Mehler’s eerily antiseptic set: a monumental courthouselike exterior where certain architectural features (doors, for instance) are oddly missing.
At the center of it all is Rakeyia, played with keening desperation and nerve by Nia-Amina Minor. A riveting actress as well as fearless dancer, Minor, new to Spectrum this season, is as technically adept in her modulations of Rakeyia’s agonized words as she is expressive in her movement.
She’s the soul of “Shot,” but other performers add vital energy. A number of male dancers represent Keith, sometimes in solo passages, sometimes in duet with Minor (a levitating/collapsing Sherman D. Wood, a swift yet silky Alexander Pham), and sometimes in tight choral movements that react to the events unfolding. (There’s nothing like seeing a whole dance company with its hands in the air.)
“Shot” is masterfully staged and paced, and the Spectrum dancers’ usual all-out prowess is on ample display. Finely executed though it is, there’s not much that’s surprising here if you’ve kept track at all of the news the last few years.
That lack of surprise may say more about the state of our country than the limitations of Byrd’s imagination. He has crafted a stark, dispiriting mirror in which we can look at ourselves — for those who can bear the sight.