“Strictly Seattle” brings the city’s artistic richness to light

There’s something about contemporary dance that shakes things up inside me. Side effects of a good choreography include an uncontrollable will to dance, loud and spontaneous singing, involuntary spasmodic movements and extreme happiness. I’ve experienced these symptoms a few times, and the most recent occurrence was yesterday night, after I watched the Strictly Seattle performances at Velocity.

The show comprised six dance pieces created by different choreographers. Each presentation was special in its own way. For instance, watching Kristin Hapke’s “Wanna French?” – performed by beginner dancers – was an uplifting experience. The colorful costumes accompanied by the simplicity of the movements and the cheerfulness of the cast would make any bad-tempered creature leave the room with a smile on the face.

Another piece worth mentioning was Corrie Befort and Beth Graczyk’s mouthful “A skin within a skin within a skin within a skin.” The costumes – Befort’s own creation – were simple, versatile and complemented the choreography well. But the star of the show was actually the live music performed by Angelina Baldoz. Baldoz, who is a bassist, trumpeter, composer and more, put together a myriad of electronic sounds and threw one-off notes from a trumpet, creating a unique compositional background.

Amelia Reeber’s “Petal to the Metal” made me want to dance along. It started slow with very little movement, and gradually, dancers would intensify their moves, building up the choreography. When I thought the dance couldn’t go faster and noticed the dancers losing their breadth, things started to slow down, and the choreography evolved to end the way it began.

The show closed with Amy O’Neal’s “no excuses,” (in lower caps) a rich, well executed and well assembled choreography performed by skillful dancers. The piece had multiple elements worth pointing out, starting with the dance moves themselves. With stroboscopic steps and intense, slow hip shaking, the dance made several allusions to nightclub parties. The lighting – be it a glaring light or just the beams of cigarette lighters or flashlights – was a crucial element to bring forth that party atmosphere. Additionally, most dancers had their hair lose, which brought about the idea of party ecstasy, nightclub sweat.

The costumes – I indeed need a separate paragraph to describe them – were all black. Black, not boring, to be clear. Half of the dancers were wearing a t-shirt covering their faces, with the t-shirt’s neckline exposing only the dancers’ eyes. Try to imagine and you’ll quickly figure out. Yes, these dancers were ninjas. And they went on to choreograph real ninja movements, which added humor and surprise to the piece.

This succession of good choreographies did have a positive effect in my mind – and body. I still don’t know what causes it, but whatever it is, I’m glad Seattle has such a strong dance community and quality shows I can always go to when I’m in need for transformative experiences. Thanks to Velocity and the amazing dance artists that give it life, I’m glad and proud to live in a city that offers such artistic richness.