A review of the first Whim W’Him show ever with no piece on the program by company founder Olivier Wevers. The dances were made by Joshua L. Peugh, Maurya Kerr and Ihsan Rustem.
When choreographer Olivier Wevers founded his dance troupe Whim W’Him in 2009, one of his hopes was that it wouldn’t just be the Olivier Wevers Show.
True, the company’s first few years were Wevers-intensive. But increasingly other dance-makers — notably Annabelle Lopez Ochoa — have contributed to its repertoire.
Which brings us to “Choreographic Shindig.”
Whim W’Him, through Sept. 19, Erickson Theatre Off Broadway, 1524 Harvard Ave., Seattle; $15-$50 (800-838-3006 or whimwhim.org).
This is the first Whim W’Him show with no piece on the program by Wevers, a former member of Pacific Northwest Ballet. Instead, the dancers were invited to select three choreographers (out of nearly 100 who applied) to set work on them. They chose brilliantly. “Choreographic Shindig” is as varied and vital as can be.
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Things start on a light but subversive note with Joshua L. Peugh’s “Short Acts on the Heartstrings.” Performed in high-school prom-wear by seven dancers, the piece serves up swoony dips and absurd flourishes in equal measure.
Initial boy-girl pairings slide into gender-blind combos, while 1950s pop standards play in the background. Things take a more tribal turn when the four guys throw off their jackets and smear black streaks on their faces to get down to the Mills Brothers’ “Diga Diga Doo.”
Once that’s done, dancer Tory Peil lures Kyle Johnson back over to the hetero side in a duet that’s moody, sexy and lightly riddled with hesitations. Peugh excels throughout at creating a loopy calligraphy in movement, spiced with eccentric flickers and jabs. (I’m not sure where Jim Kent’s high-speed flamenco moment came from — but it definitely belongs here.)
Seattle native Maurya Kerr’s “into the wide welcome” — set on three male and three female dancers — is more severe. Floor-bound and undulating at first, the performers grow nearly unhinged in the leaps and swipes they take. They simmer, tremble, panic, erupt and flail … until their angst evolves, almost imperceptibly, into a kind of pulsing serenity.
Kerr’s piece is strong — but Ihsan Rustem’s “The Road to Here” is a veritable powerhouse that plays with space and the nature of choice in crazy ways. It starts off with Peil and Johnson engaged in soft fluid contact acrobatics, before five other dancers join the intimate and continually morphing action.
In the final stretch, the musical score gives way to a recording of Alan Watts asking, “Did you ever see a cloud that was misshapen? Did you ever see a badly designed wave?”
The dancers — sometimes humorously, sometimes hectically, always sensuously — seem to answer a firm “No.”
Lighting designer Michael Mazzola plays a key role throughout. (Love that hellish red on “Diga Diga Doo”!)
The three choreographers for the 2016 edition of “Shindig” have already been chosen.