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Monthly Archives: February 2010

  • Review: Spectrum Dance Theater's "FAREWELL"

    Oh, what a night! Spectrum Dance Theater’s “Farewell” at Seattle’s Moore Theatre was nothing short of spectacular. (Or to use the phrase I used immediately following the show: “That was so freaking good!”)

    "Farewell", Spectrum Dance Theater.  Photo by Gabriel Bienczycki, Zebra Visual

    "Farewell",

     

    Farewell is based on the novel, Beijing Coma, written by Ma Jian, an exiled Chinese author. The story’s male protagonist (played by Joel Meyer) is shot during the protests in Tiananmen Square, and then suffers a "waking coma"; alert yet paralyzed and unable to communicate. While lying in this state, his mind drifts back to the tragic events that put him there and the violent state of his country. The story juxtaposes with the relationship between China and America and their strong financial ties. It then shifts to our own cultural/social tragedy of Sept. 11th and the similarities between the two.

    The audio backdrop to this piece consists of part live music by local Chinese-American composer Byron Au Yong, part speaking (the dancers recited various speeches about democracy and economics through megaphones), and part recordings from emergency responders and news reports. This overlapping onslaught of sound which comes at you from all directions was at times very difficult to listen to. The people’s cries for change barely rose above the din of media coverage and political propaganda, which I felt symbolized how the media often confuses and drowns out the truth.

    During “Farewell”, audience members sit directly on and around the stage, either in chairs or on metal bleachers, which provides an intimate—or in the case of the bleachers—a deliberately uncomfortable feel. The scenery is comprised of a large photograph of China’s Chairman Mao which hangs above the stage’s large podium. On this podium sits Spectrum’s Artistic Director, Donald Byrd who signals the dancers with the word “Go” throughout the show. Oversized imagery featuring Tiananmen Square and September 11th are suspended from the ceiling, most of which are difficult to look at.

    But then, that’s the point.

    "Farewell", Spectrum Dance Theater.  Photo by Gabriel Bienczycki, Zebra Visual

    "Farewell",

    Yet for all the pain and heartbreak, there were several moments of sheer beauty provided by the Spectrum dancers. Their stretching, yearning, cowering and writhing—their hands and legs creating shape upon beautiful shape. Every one of them managed to add their own unique stroke of color to this intricate canvas, leaving many of us alternately gasping or wiping away a tear.

    Speaking of tears; as the performance moved into the September 11th attacks and the audio recordings made by New York emergency responders were played, there was hardly a dry eye around. I personally choked back tears as my mind was suddenly whisked back to the memories of that horrible morning. Toward the end on the audio, a witness describes the scene of people jumping from the windows of the Twin Towers to their deaths. Then shortly thereafter, the dancers (who've been using these wooden benches during the entire performance) stand the benches on-end and then slowly knock them over, one by one. SLAM!...SLAM!...SLAM!..SLAM! While Joel Meyer’s character lies center stage, cringing and crying on the floor. To me, this seemed to symbolize the sounds of those bodies falling from the burning sky above.

    In the final moments, what looks like a dead, soot and ash covered dove is placed on our comatose story teller’s chest. Perhaps this symbolizes the death of peace or how peace can rise from the ashes of tragedy? I can’t say for certain. But either way, the entire performance was very powerful, extremely moving and beautifully heartbreaking.

    Thank you, Spectrum and Donald Byrd for providing this serious, thought-provoking evening. It was a night I will remember and cherish for a very long time.

    by Denise Opper

    Media Relations:   Vala Dancewear / Class Act Tutu

    All photos by Gabriel Bienczycki, Zebra Visual

    Costumes by  CJDL Design.

  • Spectrum Dance Theater's Much Anticipated "FAREWELL"

    This weekend, the Seattle Theater Group will unveil Spectrum Dance Theater's latest work:  FAREWELL:  A fantastical contemplation on America’s relationship with China.  This highly anticipated piece represents the second year in Spectrum's three year initiative, Beyond Dance: Promoting Awareness and Mutual Understanding (PAMU).  The goal of PAMU is to bring collaborators together from all over the world to create works that "examine issues relating to personal liberty, freedom, security and social justice." (Quote: Spectrum Dance Theater.)

    Spectrum Dance Theater photo by Gabriel Bienczycki, Zebra Visual

    Spectrum

    In FAREWELL, artistic director and choreographer, Donald Byrd builds a bridge between recent American and Chinese tragedies; specifically 9/11 and Tiananmen Square.

    In Part I: Considering Bejing Coma, Byrd draws inspiration from the novel, Beijing Coma written by exiled Chinese author Ma Jian.  This literary work tells the story of a young man who is shot while leaving the mayhem of Tiananmen Square, then suffers a waking coma and paralysis. In a creative twist, Byrd creates an American character who suffers the same fate, post 9/11.   In his now conscious but immobile state, the young man reflects upon his past and the events surrounding his country.

    Spectrum Dance Theater photo by Gabriel Bienczycki, Zebra Visual

    Spectrum

    Part II is entitled, With Begging Bowls In Hand.  This piece draws its strength from a quote from a friend of Ma Jian's: “Foreigners come with begging bowls in hand. This is the future.” In this act, Byrd explores the delicate financial relationship between America and China.

    Farewell's musical score was composed by Seattle's own Byron Au Yong, a second-generation Chinese American.  Au Yong's perspective is sure to add a rich, unique layer to this complex, emotional and thought-provoking performance.

    You can catch FAREWELL at The Moore Theatre, February 18th--20th. For ticketing information, please visit http://stgpresents.org.

  • Love, Passion and Dedication: Olivier Wevers & Lucien Postlewaite

    Just like Valentine's Day, the dance world is all about love, passion and dedication. From the gorgeous costumes to the sumptuous sets, to the swelling orchestral music to the supreme dedication to one's craft, everything is cloaked and bejeweled in love.

    In our first Valentine's Day segment, we chatted with the talented Seth Orza and Sarah Ricard Orza of Pacific Northwest Ballet. Next up in our special Valentine's Day feature, we'll chat with PNB principal dancer (and Whim W'him Artistic Director), Olivier Wevers about his marriage to fellow PNB principal, Lucien Postlewaite.

    Olivier and Lucien met while working at PNB. The couple later tied the knot in Santa Cruz, CA on November 2nd, 2008.

    Lucien Postlewaite & Olivier Wevers  Wedding Day, November 2, 2008

    Like other dance marriages, this handsome couple doesn't have to deal with the stress of trying to balance a career with spending quality time with their spouse. "Our schedule is pretty similar, which helps with spending time together," says Olivier.

    Additionally, Wevers cherishes the many emotional benefits a relationship with a fellow dancer brings. "We understand and support each other, and know when the other needs a little support or criticism. It {the dance world} is a very mental world...it plays with your insecurities and your mind. Having a spouse that deals with similar issues really helps. Also, we push each other as artists. We have both the same set of values, and help each other identify what our priorities are!"

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Olivier Wevers as the evil Carabosse, and principal dancer Carla Körbes as the Lilac Fairy in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty.  Photo © Angela Sterling.
    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Olivier Wevers as the evil Carabosse, and principal dancer Carla Körbes as the Lilac Fairy in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty. Photo © Angela Sterling.

    This Valentine's Day, Olivier will be up to his eyebrows in "Work, work, work!" However, the pair does have a quiet, relaxing getaway planned. "On Sunday, I will be performing a Duke in the Sleeping Beauty with PNB at 1pm, and then driving like a mad man to get to Bellevue. FRAGMENTS is being performed at 3pm at the Meydenbauer center. {This is for Whim W'him, Olivier's new company.} Then after that, I am meeting with a videographer to get the DVD ready from the 3Seasons to send to presenters, Directors, etc. So quite a busy day, but finishing with packing for beach, sun and margaritas! (We're) leaving for Mexico for a week without a computer or cell phone!"

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Lucien Postlewaite and Kaori Nakamura as Prince Florimund and Princess Aurora in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty.  Photo © Angela Sterling.

    Now that sounds like my kind of holiday!

    You can catch Olivier and Lucien performing at McCaw Hall this week in Pacific Northwest Ballet's, The Sleeping Beauty . More information about upcoming encore performances for Whim W'him can be found by visiting WhimW'Him's website.

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