A review of Whim W’Him’s season-closing performance, at Cornish Playhouse through May 31.
When Seattle contemporary dance troupe Whim W’Him was founded five years ago, it seemed to be exclusively a showcase for the prodigious choreographic talents of former Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Olivier Wevers.
That’s not the case anymore.
Under Wevers’ guidance, the company has become a canvas on which a growing number of choreographers can sketch a versatile array of stage visions. Whim W’Him’s 2015-2016 season, just announced, will present work by seven other choreographers besides Wevers. And its 2014-2015 season closer, “X-POSED,” reveals what dance-style chameleons Whim W’Him’s seven performers can be.
Through Sunday, May 31, Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center, 201 Mercer S., Seattle; $15-$30 (800-838-3006 or whimwhim.org).
All three pieces on the program feature the full company.
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First up is “RIPple efFECT” by Manuel Vignoulle, a New York-based French choreographer who’s a former dancer with Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. It’s a kaleidoscopic tangle of constantly contrasting textures. Its movement is insanely varied, with loosey-goosey turns taking instant shifts toward the sharply etched (and vice versa) without ever sacrificing any clarity. The dancers’ feats of memory are as impressive here as their acrobatic agility.
Seattle’s Kate Wallich, whose early works created tight, organic networks out of her dancers, seems in her latest piece, “Black Heart,” to have atomized her prior choreographic tactics. At times in “Heart,” it’s as if three or four entirely different works are happening at once.
Though full of eccentric detail, “Heart” sidesteps obvious dramatic effects. Yet a number of its passages and components are peculiarly hypnotic. The simple lifting of fists and spreading out of fingers by all seven dancers in unison — to give one example — has the power of a cryptic ritual.
Still, Wevers’ “Alone is the Devil” was the undeniable triumph of the evening.
Propulsive enough to feel like strong narrative, yet abstract enough to be open to interpretation, “Alone” pits dancer Jim Kent, in his skivvies, against a sextet of masked manipulators who seem determined to make him their plaything.
Mark Zappone’s eerie, identity-erasing costumes and Michael Mazzola’s shadowy lighting — along with an amazing stage prop built by Jonathan Houser that has more tricks to it than you initially suspect — make the atmosphere of the piece electric. But it’s Kent’s hapless, marionette-like character — as he’s lifted, dragged and spun through the air by these anonymous intruders — who gives it its heart.
“Alone is the Devil” is one of Wevers’ most urgent, agile flights into dance theatrics yet.