Thursday, November 11, 2021

New Films From Seattle Dance Collective


Noelani Pantastico, foreground, with Jacqueline Burnett in Robin Mineko Williams' Where You Stay
                                                         photo @ Bruno Roque

Performing arts venues are slowly starting to reopen to live audiences, but many organizations continue to offer either hybrid, or all-digital, seasons.

And that’s the case for one of Seattle’s newer small arts groups, Seattle Dance Collective.

SDC is the brainchild of Pacific Northwest Ballet Principal Dancers Noelani Pantastico and James Yoichi Moore. Instead of a dance company with a fixed group of participating artists, Pantastico and Moore wanted to create a structure that would allow them to collaborate with a variety of dancers and choreographers as the spirit moved them. Their goal was to commission and present new contemporary work each summer, when PNB dancers aren’t working.

The first season, 2019, audiences at the Vashon Island Performing Arts Center were treated to work by Marco Goecke, Bruno Roque, Penny Saunders and more. 

When the pandemic hit last spring, SDC, like every arts organization, had to rethink its plans. Last summer, Moore and Pantastico commissioned five dance films, tapping PNB colleagues like Miles Pertl and Amanda Morgan, as well as artists outside the immediate ballet world they inhabit.

This year, with the fate of live performance still iffy, SDC again decided to present a digital stream for its fans. The program, HERE & NOW is available now; it features three new works, all created during a summer artistic residency on Vashon Island.

Alice Klock and Florian Lochner in To Dust, by Juliano Nunes. photo @ Bruno Roque

To Dust, choreographed by Juliano Nunes and filmed and directed by Bruno Roque, is a moody duet performed by FLOCK, Alice Klock and Florian Lochner.

The duo also choreographed a work for SDC, 5 Favorite Things.  This dance features six performers, Jaqueline Burnett, Jane Cracovaner, Andrew McShea, Noelani Pantastico, David Schultz, and James Yoichi Moore. Roque’s camera is onstage with the dancers, weaving around them like a seventh performer.

SDC dancers in FLOCKS' 5 Favorite Things. photo @ Bruno Roque

In both 5 Favorite Things and To Dust, audiences experience something we’ve grown accustomed to during the pandemic: a very intimate, very closeup view of a dance. Our eyes are directed to certain perspectives chosen by the choreographers and directors, as opposed to the way we watch dance live, where the audience watches the same dance, but as individuals, we may focus on different aspects of the same artwork. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad; it just is the way dance adapted to the pandemic. I wonder if we’ll have a hard time readapting to live performances?

The third work on the HERE & NOW bill is by Robin Mineko Williams. Unlike the other two offerings, Where You Stay was filmed in and around a small house on a historic Vashon Island farm. Burnett, Cracovaner, McShea, Pantastico, Schultz and Moore appear alone, in duets, and trailing a mysterious young boy, the choreographer’s son, through the surrounding woods. There isn’t a linear story; for me, it evoked the sensation of being tied to our houses for most of the past 20 months, the ties we had with people in our immediate pods, moments of joy and moments of darkness.

Well, you can see for yourselves. Find out more about the project and buy tickets here.

The films are available through November 21.

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