Seattle International Dance Festival: Beyond the Threshold wraps it up with works by Rainbow Dance Theatre and maika misumi movement troupe .
Heavenly bodies — ghostly and luminescent — flew through the darkness.
Then multilimbed creatures emerged in a dim light, as if crawling out of some primordial ooze. They were followed by knuckle-dragging primates who were surprised to find someone suddenly standing upright in their midst.
It all ended with recognizably human dancers spiraling in time with one another.
These are the stages of Rainbow Dance Theatre’s “Big Bang,” an instant-history-in-movement of the universe itself — or our corner of it. The piece combines artful stagecraft with physical prowess. Black-light magic frees those “heavenly bodies” from the chains of gravity, while those “multilimbed creatures” are two or three entangled dancers engaged in intricate, balance-shifting acrobatic maneuvers.
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Rainbow Dance, from Oregon/Hawaii, was part of the Pacific-rim-focused final weekend of Seattle International Dance Festival: Beyond the Threshold. They were joined by maika misumi movement troupe [m3t] from Japan and Seattle-based Khambatta Dance Company (formerly Phffft!), run by Cyrus Khambatta, who’s also the director of Beyond the Threshold.
The program was simultaneously deeply satisfying and a little frustrating. Rainbow Dance, helmed by Darryl Thomas (former Pilobolus artistic collaborator) and Valerie Bergman (Nina Wiener Dance Company, National Ballet of the Netherlands), was well-represented by the cosmic fancifulness of “Big Bang” and, in marked contrast, the sassiness and swerve of “Street Suite.”
Standout dancers in “Big Bang” were Samantha Cunningham (as the first Homo erectus) and Samuel Hobbs, especially in a whirligig duet they performed together. Thomas and Bergman grabbed the spotlight in “Street Suite” — although Hobbs’ mighty leaps and break-dance spins were attention-getters too, and tiny Kailee McMurren’s perfect rendering of a basketball in motion was also huge fun.
Maika Misumi’s one piece, “Ditof: Zatsunen of Collage,” was perfection itself. Masterfully executed by Misumi and Jon Katayama, it alternated staccato-sharp moves and charged stillnesses with gliding elasticity and thorny partnering in a duet that was both severe and tentatively erotic. It was all too brief, however. Another piece or two from Misumi would have made a lot of sense.
Instead there was a reprise of Khambatta’s “La Fin,” which premiered last weekend. This long piece, on second viewing, contains some striking passages with fine work by Chris McCallister, Morgan Nutt and Rachel Randall, even if Khambatta has done better elsewhere. But the hectoring, doom-laden text by Caleb Penn still feels a mistake. Besides, anyone following the festival seriously had already seen “La Fin.”
It was the one programming misstep in nine days that otherwise merit nothing but praise. Not only did Khambatta bring some great choreographic talents to Seattle from overseas (Misumi and Compagnie Prototype Status’s Jasmine Morand), but he shined a light on Seattle talents — Selfick Ng-Simancas, Mark Haim, Coriolis Dance Collective’s Natascha Greenwalt-Murphy, zoe|juniper’s Zoe Scofield and, of course, Spectrum Dance Theater’s Donald Byrd — who all delivered arresting work done to the highest of standards.
Much of it was excerpted from longer works in progress — which makes the coming Seattle dance season look all the more tantalizing.
Michael Upchurch: firstname.lastname@example.org