Whim W’Him/IN-spired/January, 2016/Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center
There’s much about Whim W’Him’s winter program, besides the name, that is In-spired. The choreographers, the choreography, the dancers’ intriguing ensemble of five men (Kyle Johnson, Jim Kent, Patrick Kilbane, Thomas Phelan, Justin Reiter) and two women (Mia Monteabaro and Tory Peil), the artistic director, the performing space, the music (most certainly the music), the costumes, the lighting – and the ubiquitous socks.
Wevers’ Brahms and Tights was first up – a burst of vibrant production color (costumes, lights) and bold movement. Wevers “designed” this piece – giving his dancers different phrases to chew on in the creation process. The end result was a full commitment to Wevers’ movement and music of a Brahms Violin Concerto (D Major, Op 77, its first movement).
Kudos for use of weight. In ensemble pile-ups, the dancers seemed to be draped over or dripping off each other, skillfully balanced. Tony Peil was in top form – she attacked each arabesque, forcing an exaggerated half-toe. Of the men, Justin Reiter and Patrick Kilbane commanded the stage.
This is a piece of gerunds – falling, dropping, flying, leaping, spinning, lengthening (of arms, especially), spinning. Whether in unison or in a contact improv-like ensemble, the dancers were steadfast in strong motive and movement taking us all on a splendid journey.
Overflow, choreographed by Mark Haim featured Wagner’s Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde. This was a provocative piece – made more so by the creative genius of designer Corrie Befort. Haim’s movement motifs include hyperextended wrists, odd gestures (an index finger held threatenly), arched backs, and retracted shoulders – serving as both conversation and self-reflection. All the dancers are frantically busy, sometimes overwhelmed by the powerful crescendos of the music.
The dancers fed off each other in this piece, and yet danced with a forceful opinion of their own with Jim Kent as one of the most eloquent; his culminating solo was fully memorable. Certainly, Peil and Johnson, and Monteabaro and Phelan, gave Kent some competition. This intimate piece reveals each dancer’s persona. Rarely has Tony Peil been so vulnerable and agile.
Dominic Walsh’s The Ghost Behind Me was a perfect storm of eerie music (live, by Two Star Symphony) and powerful narrative. What’s not to like in this piece? It was one of the most beautifully haunting pieces I’ve seen in a long time.
Reiter was the puppet master of the show. He and the music ensemble sported black hooded sweatshirts, with long shiny blue goatees. Reiter plays a manipulative creature in this piece, half Quasimodo and half omniscient puppeteer. He activates the other dancers by his touch, and the dancers respond with remarkable fluidity. Kilbane is a central figure, perhaps the most tormented of them all as evidenced by his clawing and grabbing motions. In a sense, all are entrapped.
Patrick Kilbane and dancers in The Ghost Behind Me/Photo by Bamberg Fine Art
Two Star Symphony is a master of setting up a chord progression and playing it incessantly. The bass was particularly good, which was especially important in this Fade-gypsy-jazz minimalist music melee. For me, the music was crying out for some virtuosic improvisations. Walsh clearly left this up to the dancers.