An Existential Exploration

NW Dance Project : Summer Splendors

Northwest Dance Project opened its doors last night for the annual Summer Splendors and the final show of the 2013-2014 season. The program offers two world premieres with an intermission before two reworked original pieces, for the second half.

It is a beautiful space, the evening light gently illuminating through the windows. The early summer warmth creeping in and permeating. The first piece by Carla Mann, How the Light Gets In starts without words.  One person in the neutral light connecting with the audience, offering some insight, a quizzical proposition.  As the dancers walk out and fill the floor, he continues. Stops. At once, they drop.

Loose white tops, sheer. Taupe pants. Bodies fluid. Bodies full of questions. Uncertainty. Words dispersed. Moments of hypothetical situations.  Asking us, commanding us to question the reality of our imagination…or our selves? These lines of dialogue infuse the piece with meaning. A self awareness. An existential exploration of the mind, the body and where the two connect. Where they then connect with another body.

Before Dawn, choreographed by Yin Yue, begins with a pulsing sound. The music is abrasive and repetitive. Dancer Ching Ching Wong moves with force as the others find a place along the side, holding space. As it progresses, intensity shifts and we watch as the dancers find strange ways to develop and evoke connection with each other.

Do you do that thing where you close your eyes as you listen to music and let your imagination create along with the musical landscape? There were moments during this piece where I did something similar. I began to imagine music layered into the sound of the music playing. This spontaneously began as the dancers would shift into a new movement. Particularly when they went into repetitive movement together. It would continue from there, this sound, loud and clear, inspired specifically from the movements of the dancers. It was wonderful while it lasted. I was very inspired by this piece, and I am very excited to see more from Yin Yue.

After a brief intermission, This is Embracing by Gregory Dolbashian. During this piece I often wondered what the dancers might be experiencing. I saw this work as a moving meditation on support; As much about being supportive as breaking through because there is support. I can imagine there is honesty behind the theme. To be a solid company I imagine there must be an intense amount of struggle and support. On many levels. When working close together in any sort of situation this is true…and to witness these dancers emulating this sort of theme is quite moving.

Then comes Atash by Tracey Durbin.  The thing about the space at NW Dance Project is that there is so much going on right outside the open windows. The skateboards momentarily passing by earlier were a perfect quick reminder. During Atash, a new witness stops by with encouraging words and hand claps for the dancers. An interesting pairing. An unexpected and enthusiastic addition to the serious tone of the final piece. Something about masculinity and tragedy. Fire. The number nine perhaps?

These works seem to all have a fluid connection. The particular pieces didn’t stand out alone as much as certain movements within each of them. The strength and flexibility of the dancers,  along with the personality that is presented through the movements, and the way this translates into the interactions between dancers were the highlights of the night.

The program runs through Saturday this week. Northwest Dance Project Studio & Performance Center at 833 N Shaver St. 7:30pm, Now until June 14th, and 4pm Sunday June 15. For more information  and to purchase tickets visit

Paula Helen

By Paula Helen

Gravitating toward spirituality and poetic narrative, Paula has recently allowed the passion of movement to connect with writing. Practicing Butoh directly, while studying all forms of contemporary dance through the process of cultural journalism, she has developed a new level of appreciation for all the performing arts.

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