Against the Grain/Men in Dance presents a showcase of new work by Seattle-area choreographers for male dancers. Reviewed by Michael Upchurch.

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Dance Review |

Two men are better than one. As for half a dozen men doing dance interpretations of Edward Gorey’s macabre rhymes — that’s priceless.

Last Friday, Against The Grain/Men In Dance presented its seventh biennial production, a two-hour showcase of new work by local choreographers for male dancers (and occasional singers). Its highs were high indeed; its lows were few and fleeting.

Top of the list were duets by Daniel Wilkins and Donald Byrd.

To perform “Dioscuri” (inspired by the Greek myth of twin brothers Castor and Pollux), Spectrum Dance Theater artistic director Byrd called on actual twins: Spectrum apprentices Danny Boulet and Sylvain Boulet. They did a nimble, spidery job of it.

Sibling attraction/repulsion fueled the piece, as the men approached, retreated, embraced and escaped each other. The recorded score by Muslimgauze added to the sense of being immersed in a world at once rivalrous, tender and hermetic.

Wilkins, a former Spectrum dancer, upped the ante with “Twine.” This fierce duo for men clad in loincloths — hunters? stalkers? — was as much staged combat as stage narrative, with dancers Ben Meersman and Dade Glazer lending it a prowess that was brutal.

Their most extraordinary moment: a back-to-back lift and toss, with one man, bent over, scooting backward, serving almost as a trampoline propelling the other guy forward. Their balance, mutual trust and gymnastic strength were impeccable.

Deborah Wolf’s “The Hipdeep Family” struck a lighter but still crisply disciplined note as it brought the gothic humor of Edward Gorey to life — first with Roger Curtis’ grandiloquent recital of tales involving a gin drinker, a ballet victim and a “weeping chandelier,” then with absurd re-enactments of the stories by his six fellow dancers, to music by the Tiger Lillies and Kronos Quartet. It made a great closer.

In solo performance, opening act Anthony Peters charmed with some slyly witty tapdancing in “Dinah: Parts 1 & 2.” And Christian Swenson delivered perfect music-movement fusion in “This Body’s Music,” his fingers following the Eastern trills of his voice, his long-limbed body pretzeling or kicking out in tandem with his surreal scat-singing. Solo pieces by Dominique Gabella, Wade Madsen and Jason Ohlberg were less memorable, although all were performed well.

Three teen dancers spoofed ballet-oneupmanship in Steve Casteel’s lightweight but amiable “Emulous.” The evening’s fish-out-of-water was a staging of “War Is a Science” from the Broadway musical, “Pippin.” This sarcastic number was capably handled, especially by singer-dancer Stanley Perryman. But what was it doing here?

The festival continues this weekend with “Dinah,” “Hipdeep,” “Emulous” and “War” repeating, and work by Pilar Villanuevua, Jurg Koch, Christopher Anderson, Vicki Lloid, Olivier Wevers and Brian Joe rounding out the program.

Michael Upchurch: