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  • Whim W'him Delivers 'Shadows, Raincoats & Monsters'

    This past weekend, Olivier Wevers and the gorgeous cast of Whim W’him delivered their much-anticipated second production, ‘Shadows, Raincoats and Monsters’ to a sell-out crowd at The Intiman Theatre.

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    The evening opened with ‘This is Not a Raincoat’, a delightful romp which begins with the dancers marching, marching, marching in step, dressed in pink turtlenecks, pink socks and black raincoats. The coats represent the protective mask we oftentimes project to society in hopes that our make-believe persona will be more readily accepted than our true self. Yet midway through the selection the music takes on a decidedly childlike tone and suddenly everyone drops their raincoats and frolics about with carefree abandon. The mix of bouncy music coupled with sweet little baby coos and a child’s laughter made you pause for a moment and think back to a time when life was all innocence and discovery. There was no pretense, no need for a “raincoat” to hide under. The real you was more than enough. At the end of the piece, only one dancer (performed by the ever-stunning Chalnessa Eames), is willing to keep her raincoat off permanently.

    I felt this move was a stroke of genius, as it would’ve been far too easy to have everyone tossing their coats in a collective show of freedom. {Because as we all know, life just doesn’t work that way.}

    ‘Monsters’ is a triptych of three pas de deuxs that explore some of society’s darkest layers: homophobia, drug addiction and abusive relationships. Each section began with a poem written and recorded by local hip-hop artist, RA Scion that served as the backdrop to each piece.

    In Monster #1, Andrew Bartee and Vincent Lopez performed a very powerful, incredibly moving piece as a homosexual couple struggling for acceptance in society. As Bartee hid his face with his hand in shame, Lopez very tenderly lowered Bartee's arm to his side. The arresting expression etched on Lopez's face as he gazed into his lover's eyes seemed to say, “Look at me. I see you, the real you deep inside. Don’t turn away from me, please!” To hide one is to hide the other, and each looked visibly hurt as society’s accusing finger pointed their way.

    This piece throbbed with such intense pain and aching tenderness. This exquisite ‘Monster’ –limping and wounded with the scars of fear—did what nothing else could. It opened my eyes to see the love behind the mask for the first time…and it was beautiful.

    Wevers second ‘Monster’ tackled the taboo subject of drug addiction head on. The piece was in stark contrast to the previous ‘Monster’ with its louder, more punctuated music and jerky movements. Ty Alexander Cheng and Kylie Lewallen made a most convincing pair of “addicts” struggling to escape their inner demons.

    Monster - Ty Cheng & Kylie Lewallen. Choreography by Olivier Wevers. Photography by Kim & Adam Bamberg

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    Their movements were sharp and precise, poetic and dangerous. At times they seemed to be literally writhing in agony—backs arched, knees bent, hands clutching. For a brief moment, I thought the pair was gaining an inner strength and would soon break free from their self-imposed prison. But alas, the black claws of addiction had sunk too deep and took Lewallen’s character down with them.

    The third ‘Monster’, abusive relationships, shined the spotlight on the dynamic partnership of Melody Herrera and Lucien Postlewaite. As a fan of Pacific Northwest Ballet, I’ve witnessed Postlewaite’s stellar talent first hand, but seeing him with Herrera—I swear, fireworks went off and rainbows streaked across the sky! Their chemistry is the epitome of perfection, poetry in motion and every other flowery combination of adjectives you can throw in there. They literally draw out the very best from each other's souls.

    As Monster #3 begins, we find Postlewaite looking weary and exhausted as he drags Herrera behind him. “Were we ever good together?” his expression seems to wonder. Throughout the piece, Herrera’s character alternates between a human ball and chain to a heavy millstone suspended from her lover’s neck. Their toxic relationship escalates from weary looks to strangleholds and vicious shoves. And then, contrary to all reason, each of these outbursts of rage culminates with a panic-stricken return to the other’s embrace. It’s not so much love that holds these two together, but rather their pride that won’t allow them to admit they’ve made a mistake.

    The final act of the night was ‘Cylindrical Shadows’ created by the renowned choreographer, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. In ‘Shadows’ we find a group of dancers moving along without much thought or care. They seem to have a plan and refuse to be swayed from it. Then as one dancer suddenly dies, only one member of the group mourns their loss. As the grief-stricken party gently sits atop of their dearly departed, the rest of the dancers carry on as if nothing has happened.

    Cylindrical Shadows - Melody Herrera & Lucien Postlewaite. Choreography by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Photography by Kim & Adam Bamberg

    Cylindrical

    A deeper layer of emotion is brought into focus during the final moments of the closing pas de deux featuring Herrera and Postlewaite (now deceased). As the music slowly fades away, Herrera –no longer content to idly sit on top of him as she did before—lovingly wraps her limbs around her beloved’s body and refuses to let go. {Grab handful of tissues here.}

    This sudden shock of tragedy is replayed many times, allowing the viewer to acknowledge this unspoken truth: The rest of the world doesn’t stop just because yours did. In fact, it’s not supposed to. Life goes on, whether we want it to or not. And in time, we too become like those oblivious dancers, unaware of the pain in another’s eyes...

    And with that, this spectacular evening of thought-provoking and emotionally inspiring dance came to a close. The crescendo of applause echoed throughout the entire theatre as everyone rose to their feet in deep admiration and respect.

    Whim W’him has left its own indelible mark of beauty on the hearts of both ballet and modern dance enthusiasts alike. Therefore, I know I’m not alone when I say--

    I can’t wait to see what’s next!

    *Be sure to catch Whim W’him’s ‘Fragments’ at On The Boards AWARD Show, Saturday January 29th. Tickets available at On The Boards.

    By Denise Opper

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