FULL TILT 2019
Posted by Meredith Pellon
Ten dancers in patterned leggings and black tailcoats infiltrate the space in bright lighting. They embark on slow, individualized choreography, each dancer’s journey connected through similar imagery, such as clustered fingers rising towards the sky. Dramatic orchestral music begins, and the choreography mimics the rises and falls of this commanding soundtrack.
symphonica in J, choreographed by jo Blake, fills the entirety of the stage with its growing momentum. Small groups simultaneously perform phrases that adhere to different elements of the music, playing on the theme of dancers as conductors. The energy builds exponentially until finally the dancers take short pauses for the first time, emphasizing the momentum the piece has produced until that point. Potential energy fills every second of stillness, percolating in the muscles of each performer. This work displays satisfyingly musicality as its core component.
Blake’s work is one of five pieces in the 2019 Full Tilt, organized by Evoke Productions and ongoing for over a decade. This festival was created in order to provide opportunities for selected choreographers and dancers to connect and share their passion for dance in the Seattle area. This year’s festival ran April 26-27 at Velocity Dance Center.
Saturn, choreographed by Phi VoBa, is the only hip hop piece of the evening, offering a break from the contemporary landscape. While it’s excellent that Full Tilt included this variety in genre, several of the dancers appear to be uncomfortable in the style. As a contemporary dominated festival, it is understandable that fewer dancers proficient in hip hop attended the festival’s audition. If Full Tilt continues to include hip hop pieces, they should attract more dancers experienced in the style to fully support the pieces they’re presenting. The performers with greater hip hop familiarity, such as Kaylyn Ready, stood out – her solo moment highlighting her ability to display complex dynamics and shift through different qualities with ease.
In Wait Space, choreographed by Sarah Alaways, the audience is invited to observe a world of cadets, commanded by a disembodied voice which provides instructions over the speakers. New recruit Margaret Behm has just joined this confusing landscape and is hilariously out of place, struggling to keep up with unison choreography and questioning why the group is engaging in constant, unexplained rituals.
The dance shifts often in structure, but the militant nature of each movement remains constant. Text becomes a clear feature of the piece as dancers speak aloud fragments of memory. They seem to be collectively describing the memories of one person.
Wait Space is detailed, fleshed out, and leaves the audience with a lot to unpack. It seems to investigate anxiety related to revisited memories, and the uselessness of concern over unchangeable moments. In this fictional world, cadets take on the weight of memory, reliving previous worry without positive resolve.
Warren Woo’s Patchwork blends modern and ballet vocabulary as dancers progress through the space in linear patterns. Though this work featured committed performers, it lacks choreographic progression and thematic content. Limited phrase work appears to be the main source of material for the work, and this material is repeated but not developed over time. Small moments of cohesive partnering broke away from this structure, but these moments did not have time to resonate before dissolving into more of the same phrase material.
Ghir Enta, choreographed by Elise Meiners Schwicht, begins with a stunning image of a two-person tower: one dancer, standing straight up, balanced on the feet of another dancer lying on their back, legs straightened to the ceiling. As the suspended dancer is lifted down from the tower slowly, Meg Ess cycles through a solo in the center of the stage, passing through leg extensions and frequent weight shifts, stunningly completing each movement to its true end. Another group downstage creates clock-like, angular movements in the arms, keeping a sharp rhythm that complements the dynamics present in solo and opposing group.
This opening scene offers an important view into what is to come – a work of many diverse moving pieces, expertly arranged at every moment by Meiners Schwicht. Ghir Enta switches music and structure often, with frequent song changes and rearranging of the group construction. The precise attention to piecing together a varying group allows the piece develop over time even within these abrupt changes. It creates the sense that though different pursuits are explored throughout the group, a strong mutual energy is carrying each performer to their next movement. At one point, the group creates a clump and unites in choreographed pulses through the upper body. In these unison moments, the group has a distinct communal understanding.
Full Tilt proves to be a space where a variety of artists have a platform to develop new works and experiment with choreographic choices. It is commendable that they continue to produce this festival annually, as it is an asset to the Seattle dance scene, and can result in incredible pieces like Ghir Enta. Meiners Schwicht’s choreography is meticulously organized and gloriously interesting – a clear standout of the evening.
See the review at the Seattle Dances website
Now in its 11th year, Full Tilt continues to provide an avenue for Seattle dancers to meet, perform in new work, and form lasting connections with both emerging and established choreographers. This year, Evoke Productions invited Hailey Burt, Noelle Price, Sam Picart, Stephanie Golden, and Wade Madsen to showcase their work at Velocity’s Founders Theatre. While in the past, Full Tilt has featured a range of styles, such as jazz and modern, this year’s festival remained within the contemporary genre, with one notable exception.
In Stephanie Golden’s Perception, eight dancers wearing green blindfolds tentatively entered the stage, tracing a pathway through a forest of shadeless lamps. When one dancer illuminated an exposed light bulb, she removed her blindfold as if to signify her awakening to a eureka moment. Then the fighting began. Utilizing daredevil stunts such as butterfly jumps and horizontal cartwheels, the dancers pulled each other away from the lamps, or toward them, forcing one another to snuff out each metaphorical idea. A recurring partnering motif, in which the dancers leaned forward shoulder to shoulder as if in a rugby scrum, furthered this sense of disagreement. While the literal content of these flashes of understanding followed by arguments and quashing remained open-ended, in the current political climate, it is difficult not to see the light bulbs as symbols of diverging ideologies. Golden’s eclectic movement vocabulary mirrored her varied musical choice from ambient electronic artists Johann Johannsson and Oliver Tank. The choreography was peppered with running, falling, and jumping into exhilarating lifts, not to mention the throwback dance move “the worm.” These bursting, potent movements made the space seem too small to contain such energy.
Wade Madsen presented Water, a hauntingly beautiful work that I remember seeing in a 2012 Cornish production. As Madsen works in collaboration with the dancers, each iteration of Water is different, and the professional calibre performers of Full Tilt moved with a delicacy and care that reflected their experience. Their hands placed sensitively on the smalls of each other’s backs, the dancers suspended in a line, tipped off-balance, and recovered into new formations, just like waves washing against the shore. Their limbs soft yet precise, the dancers rippled overlapping phrases, the timing building and accumulating across the stage. Like water droplets, each movement, from gesture to lunge to spritely jump, was executed with exquisite attention to detail—an absorbing scrupulousness that drew me in. The dancers’ interactions with each other in duets shared this same gentleness, without being precious or dramatic. One of Madsen’s many masterworks, Water flowed with seamless transitions accomplishing that rare feat of being neither overly joyous nor perfectly polite, but instead pleasurable and refreshing.
Sam Picart’s STARS began with five dancers dressed in all black, gliding and locking their way across the stage in low lighting, an ode to the familiar trope of the Hip Hop Dance Crew. Abruptly, the piece took a left turn when the choreographer himself walked onstage, clapping and thanking the audience for attending the “Graceful Grace Awards.” Suddenly, we were in the middle of a televised reality awards show, which had apparently already given out its trophies for “Best Male Dancer” of a variety of genres, to comic effect. Then, Picart introduced a trio of female dancers as last year’s Sexy Black Swan award winners, asking the audience whether they agreed that “black swans are cooler, more athletic, and have longer … necks.” In setting his piece at a fake dance awards ceremony invoking cultural connotations of gender and race, Picart began to build humor into a biting social commentary. Rebecca Smith as Black Swan vogued hilariously in a deadpan version of Swan Lake’s bird arms, supported by her subservient backup dancers. Jordan Rohrs and Michael O’Neal entered next, to begin another dance showcasing O’Neal’s breaking talents, only to be cut off unexpectedly. Picart explained that the awards show had, “filled our hip hop quota. But wasn’t it dynamic, ladies and gentlemen?”, a clear jab at those who recognize hip hop only for its commercial appeal. Picart’s next sections utilized hip hop movement vocabulary in the dynamic, energetic manner that is central to the genre, showcasing Picart’s skill in creating a finessed interplay between movement and music. Did Picart chose to award himself the main prize in his own fake dance award show in order to mock himself, or perhaps to mock or the whole dance awards spectacle? As a real-life Ellen Degeneres dance contest winner, in STARS, Picart seems to ridicule a system that packages and monetizes dance expression for populist consumption.
Also on the evening’s program was Float by Hailey Burt, an exploration of translucent balloons, and Noelle Price’s Here I Stand, in which insecurity creeps insidiously into relationships between twinned dancers. For more information on Evoke Productions, please visit HERE.
See the review at the Seattle Dances website