Attending a performance of this year’s Men in Dance festival is like dropping into a good tapas bar. The small bites are all delicious, but some are so succulent you want to order more.
Of the nine works on Friday night’s program, six were so engaging I immediately wanted to see them again. Some were solos, some trios and some larger ensemble works, but all contained inventive choreography and a flair for drama that leapt across the footlights despite minimalist production design. Meg Fox’s beautiful lighting effects made the most of the bare stage, but in the end it was the distinctive qualities of the movement and the dancers (most of them graduates of the UW or Cornish) that made each piece compelling.
Bill Wade’s excerpt from the full-length “Center of the Earth” was perhaps the most dazzling, with its Pilobolus-like contortions. Three men, clad in multicolored unitards, slowly somersault over each other, then move into an astonishing series of postures that almost defy description. At one point, one of them bends forward while the other two lie stretched out on his back and balance for what seems like an eternity. At another, they form an octopus that slinks across the stage. There are so many other striking images that “Center” deserves more than one viewing to appreciate all of its complexities.
In a complete change of pace, Rainbow Fletcher’s gender-bending “Sportif” demonstrates that in dance, men can do anything they want. The work starts out as a fairly conventional modern dance except the three men are wearing high heels. Gradually it evolves into a sophisticated striptease as the men execute a series of muscle-rippling moves that both poke fun at and show respect for traditional female burlesque.
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Another high point was Wade Madsen’s “Federico.” Madsen has particular talent for solos that create character and emotion with the simplest of gestures. In “Federico” he seems to embody an aging ballroom dancer remembering his heyday. With the slight extension of an arm or the rounding of a shoulder, he conveys the memory of a beloved partner, and the work ends on a bittersweet note as the dancer lets go of a life once lived.
Gérard Théorêt’s “Tango Del Hombres” was the most testosterone-filled work on the program, demonstrating the energy generated when a group of male dancers — six in this case — fling themselves into daredevil whirlwind leaps, turns and jumps.
For a festival dedicated to encouraging more boys to pursue dance, it was only fitting to showcase some of today’s young students. Tim Lynch’s “Social Exclusion,” performed by students from Kaleidoscope Dance Company and Pacific Northwest Ballet School, enabled 11 accomplished boys to prove that dance is not just for girls anymore.
Alice Kaderlan is a Seattle-based arts journalist.