|Whim W'Him dancers in Bruno Roque's "The Background Hum of Stimuli"
photo by Bamberg Fine Arts
From its inception, Olivier Wevers’ contemporary dance troupe Whim W’Him has presented not only Wevers’ choreography, but work by a diverse collection of dance makers: Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Penny Saunders, Mad Boots,Ihsan Rustem, to name just a few of the artists from outside the Pacific Northwest. It's been a real treat for dance fans.
For the past three years, Wevers has empowered his company members to select the choreographers they want to work with for the annual production “Choreographic Shindig.” This year, they’ve outdone themselves; “Choreographic Shindig III” is an evening of stellar offerings.
The program kicks off with Bruno Roque’s somewhat fanciful “The Background Hum of Stimuli.” The dancers appear on stage, lit only by their cell phone screens and directed by the ubiquitous Siri/Alexa robotic voice we’ve all come to know. The dancers are engrossed in their individual electronic worlds until the voice forces them to set aside their devices and interact—with the audience and with one another.
What results is a physical embodiment of Art Blakey’s hypnotic music. The dancers step out of the group, one by one, to throw down solos the way Blakey’s Jazz Messengers riff on the musical composition. The result is pure joy.
Adam Barruch’s “Summoning” is much quieter, a contemplative offering set to an original score by Roarke Menzies. It provides a chance for the excellent company members to shine.
Both "Summoning" and Roque's "Background Hum" are strong works that highlight the seven Whim W'Him dancers (two new company members, Cameron Birts and Adrian Hoffman, meld well with the group), but the piece de resistance for me was Banning Bouldin’s stunning “Limitation Etudes: 7-10.”
Bouldin, an award-winning dancer and choreographer based in Tennessee, was diagnosed nine months ago with Multiple Sclerosis. That’s when she began this ongoing artistic project.
In Seattle, Bouldin collaborated with the company members to create four stunning, interconnected works that begin with a spectacular entrance. Liane Aung perches atop Jim Kent's shoulders, surrounded by four crouching figures. As they make their way slowly downstage, we see they are tethered together by what looks like a wide fabric bandage. The material is anchored to Karl Watson, who is frantically trying to escape its hold on him.
Although our ties to one another can limit us, they can also lend support. Mia Monteabaro straddles Tory Peil, who literally helps Monteabaro move her feet across the floor. Their interdependency is replayed throughout these four sections.
Each of Bouldin's etudes is infused with a sense of determination as well as melancholy. But this is no pity party; instead it’s a call for fearlessness in the face of what might seem insurmountable obstacles. Bouldin’s choreography, both technically complex and emotionally resonant, packs a universal punch that transcends the personal circumstances that spawned it.
For the past seven years, Olivier Wevers’ dance troupe has been consistently strong, presenting new and thought provoking dances. With “Choreographic Shindig III,” Whim W'Him has reached new heights. Bravo. Simply, bravo.