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K. Kvanstrom & Company

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K. Kvanstrom & Co. brought a piece called "Fragile" to the Moore Theater in Seattle last night under the aegis of the Seattle Theater Group's dance series.

The set was quite beautiful: it consisted of a light gray square dance surface and a white hanging mobile-like structure that looked like a Calder mobile with Noguchi shapes hanging from either end of what looked like the Nike "Swoosh" hanging upside down. The dancers entered at the beginning of the piece and sat their water bottles down along either side of the dance surface. This is where they rested when they weren't dancing, until the very end, when they left the stage into the wings. The five dancers in the piece wore black pants and various stretch tops and shirts in muted colors.

The piece opened in silence, with each dancer walking downstage, pulling out a Poloroid, displaying the picture to the audience, and putting it on the stage apron. (I was on the verge of immediate hatred.) Then they started to move, and in various combinations, didn't stop moving to a mostly driving electronic score to music by Anders Jacobson and Amon Tobin and occasional bouts of silence, except where they pulled out more photos and occasionally took photos of themselves during the piece. The dancers were so strong for so long, that only when a silence occured toward the end, and the breathing of the two women onstage was prominent (deliberately, I think), it finally dawned on me that they had been dancing in very long stretches for over an hour.

Many of the patterns were repeated throughout the piece. There were a couple of low, distinct turning lifts, one where a dancer would seem to launch diagnonally upwards into the arms of two other dancers while the movement, made stiking because it always seemed reversible, and a movement where a dancer would fall backwards on a diagonal into the arms of another dancer. Most of the rest of the phrases were done in unison or with two groups each doing their own movement. There were movements of great sensuality, yet the performance was so low-key and unselfconscious that it never came close to being exhibitionish.

The five dancers were all over the map. Of the two men, one was tall and thin, and apart from exceptionally beautiful ballet feet, he looked like the Dance Guy in college who took up dancing first a year ago and who was cast because he was tall and male and was interested in dance. The piece called for a lot of elastic movement that rounded in constantly changing directions, and the energy of his movement stopped at his waist and died in his inflexible back. By contrast, his shorter, more compact counterpart looked at first like someone who had been chosen randomly off the street, but who, from the moment he started to move, performed great feats of shape and concentration, without ever looking "dancerish."

Among the women, there was one tallish, dark-haired, extremely thin woman who was all limbs and angles. The choreography was beside the point for the way she moved, with one exception: for 10 seconds, she did a series of writhing movements downstage left, which was the only thing all night that made sense of the title of the piece. The second woman had sun-bleached blond hair and was the same height, but looked like she had been fed at least daily. She had the most cut arms and shoulders I've ever seen on a dancer. She was able to move with the roundness of the choreography, and many of the arm and hand gestures looked clearest and most differentiated when she performed them. The third woman, who looked like a normal person onstage (but I'm sure was quite thin in real life), had pulled back blond hair and was a revelation: she danced like a constantly contracting and expanding double helix. I could not keep my eyes off of her, because her energy was so continuous throughout her body, and she looked just as strong at the end of the dance as she did at the begining. (According to the program, one of the woman was born in 1965; none of the three woman looked 38 years old, even during the bows.)

The strange thing to me was that the really good man and the extraordinary woman weren't really interesting when they danced together. None of the dancers were playing to the audience, and it didn't seem to be a competitive issue. They had similar energy and strength. The really good man looked great with the woman with cut arms, perhaps because they seemed to be having more of a conversation.

I'm not really sure what the piece means. I haven't seen much modern dance outside of the Paul Taylor/Merce Cunningham/Jose Limon/Mark Morris veins, and I saw Martha Graham Company for the first time last week. (Where I found in Diversion of Angels some of the seeds of Paul Taylor's style. Imagine, I had thought he sprang from the thigh of Zeus!). So I have no clue if the piece was derivative.

But the choreographer was never in my face, and the performers didn't demand my attention, although several commanded it. The piece wasn't avante garde or faux outrageous or pretentious in the way that attracts the "I'm deep enough to understand the existential crisis behind this piece, and you're not" audience. I do know I saw some beautiful movement to music I liked performed by two great dancers and one quite fine one, and I was sorry when it was over.

Did anyone see the piece at Jacob's Pillow last summer? If so, I'd really appreciate your take on "Fragile."

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Thank you so much for the link to Rita Felciano's review. (According to the program, the company will perform the piece in Santa Barbara (CA) and Cleveland, too.) I had forgotten to mention Maria Ros' exquisite lighting. Seattle audiences have been very lucky the last month: first Jennifer Tipton's lighting for the Seattle Opera's production of Mourning Becomes Electra, and then Ros' for Kvarnstrom.

The dancers looked so much like people, that it never occurred to me that they were at rehearsal! :wacko:

(Edited to fix spelling)

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My curiosity was piqued enough that if they flew this way, I'd definitely see it. Rita Felciano seemed to be both interested and impatient with them -- but the dancers do look glorious.

You're getting a lot to look at out there! No fair. (We're having a slow autumn season; things will pick up in the spring.)

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SandiK, did you go?

Unfortunately, no. It's a fairly thick weekend for dance here -- I saw Minneapolis choreographer Morgan Thorson last night as part of a new touring program started by a local group linking the ODC space in San Francisco, the Southern Theater in Minneapolis and Velocity Studio here in Seattle. (I'm so glad to see small groups and individuals come together to help get their work a wider audience). Pacific Northwest Ballet is doing a mixed rep this week as well (including Forsythe's "Artifact II). I heard from a friend who'd been to Kvarnstrom that they had a good house, despite being opposite PNB opening night.

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