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Whim W'him Choreographic Shindig IV

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For the last four seasons and this current season, Whim W'him has invited choreographers to apply to be considered for the season-opening Choreographic Shindig program, in which the works are chosen by the dancers.  This past weekend marked opening weekend at the Erickson Theatre -- small, wingless, and intimate -- and I saw last night's performance.  The three choreographers on the program were chosen same time, last season.

For most works performed by the Company, each work used all of the dancers, with breakout solos, and duets; each work balanced these elements differently, and, in this program, a central couple or relationship only dominated part of the part two of last work by Omar Roman De Jesus.

The program opened with Alice Klock's "Before After" to music by Moderat, Natureboy Flako, J. Ralph, and Max Richter.  While the musical elements were discrete, the workings of the ensemble were the most integrated throughout the work structurally, since the points of the other two works were transition and contrast.  With the focus moving from one dancer to another as each broke out from the ensemble, it was like a re-introduction of each of six returning dancers and the newest dancer, Jane Cracovaner. Edited to add:  And it had handography.  I love handography.  

I would describe Brendan Duggan's "Stephanie Knows Some Great People," as "1960's Midwest Patio Party Meets The Exterminating Angel." Full of dialogue, it's a clever party from hell in which there was no escape, and the transitions from theater into dance, with several initial forays and then returns, as different dancers peeled off, as happens when there is a party with alcohol and couples in various degrees of compatibility, and then into a full movement piece.  Kudos to the dancers for making it all seamless, and for remember all of that dialogue and never missing a beat.  Duggan called it "a true co-creation," and continued "Without the smart, funny, talented performers at Whim W'him, it would not exist."

Omar Roman De Jesus's "Welcome to Barrio Ataxia" was the subject of a piece by critic Michael Upchurch in Crosscut, and I was more prepared for the subject, but that didn't lessen the surprise of the way the transition between the two parts was tempered despite the contrast.  While I wouldn't call the contrast subtle, it was more nuanced than a description would imply, with an invisible thread between the two parts.  In this work, there was a central role for Cracovaner.  Tall and light-haired, it was easy to think that, had Tori Peil still been with the company, it would have been her role, but while I can see why the choreographer picked her for it, Cracovaner made it very much her own.  Music was by lucho Bermudez and Slow Meadow.  As Olivier Wevers described in his intro, the program does end with a sigh.

What is always interesting with Whim W'him is to see how each choreographer's vocabulary, movement style,  and sensibility looks on each dancer; there are always some dancers for whom each resonates.  Liane Aung, Cameron Birts, and Mia Monteabaro -- it was great to see her in an almost romantic, less fraught role -- were splendid in the Klock.  Both Duggan and Roman De Jesus detected an unusual, apart-from-the-crowd qualify in Adrian Hoffman, and featured him in different, offbeat ways.  Cracovaner was funny and engaging in Duggan's work, and really came into her own in "Welcome to Barrio Ataxia."  Karl Watson in a major speaking role and Jim Kent in a smaller, but wonderful character role, were fantastic in "Stephanie Knows Some Great People."

What is interesting to me about Choreographic Shindig, the dancers choose primarily based on video, although, by now, with hundreds of submitted applications, some choreographers' work is probably familiar, but, typically, choreographers try not to repeat themselves, and someone's work #7 might differ greatly from prior work.  I always wonder how the actual work compares to what they expected and envisioned when they chose the choreographer, or if they even envisioned choreography much at all, but were more interested in the process of making it.  But those aren't questions the stage was meant to answer :)

Choreographic Shindig plays again next weekend, September 12-15 at 8pm.  This program is always worth seeing.

Edited by Helene
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