Ouro Collective, June 15

This Vancouver, B.C., dance troupe parlays a variety of street-dance styles into true stage magic, making Ouro Collective, to my mind, the indisputable knockout of SIDF so far.

Their 2016 piece, “Pace,” is all about contentions and connections between the individual and the group. After opening with some fleeting spot-lit moments illuminating figures in states of defeat agitation or friendly conspiracy, “Pace” proceeds with five performers making their way in a grand, mutating, diagonal line across the stage. Their progress is punctuated by brief solos – capricious freestyle outbursts – before the outliers are pulled back the group. The score is techno-hypnotic with some 1920s ragtime quirks. The action is wiry, wily and undulatingly organic.

Midway through, however, there’s a shift. Instead of lone individuals breaking free of the group, members of the group start imposing their wills on lone individuals.

It begins with Mark Siller forcibly manipulating Rina Pellerin into poses she resists while the three other dancers sidle in to monitor them more closely. Soon, groups of four take turns ganging up on one estranged figure or another. The “victims,” often trapped within controlling hands or a cage of limbs, grab at what freedom they can in wild slippery movements.

Braden Penno and Mark Siller have the showiest breakdance/acrobatics solos. But the most powerful moment is when all five performers join forces to become a complexly witty ten-armed Shiva. The serpentine precision of their movement within a symmetrical form is a marvel.

A post-performance discussion of “Pace” cited the various urban dance styles – breaking, locking, popping, waacking, hip-hop, etc. – that go into Ouro’s collaborative efforts. But it really doesn’t matter how you label the action in “Pace.” It all serves one dazzling dance drama, so lively it elicited shouts and encouragement from the audience as the piece hit its high points.

Karin Stevens Dance, June 15

According to the website HowToTelekinesis.com, “atmokinesis” is “the psychic ability to manipulate the flux and elements of the atmosphere.” It’s the perfect title for a piece that’s ostensibly a dance solo with live music, but that winds up blurring the lines between its solitary dancer and its three musicians. Experimental chamber trio, Kin of the Moon, provides a viola/woodwinds/electronics score that’s precisely timed but allows for plenty of improvisation. Karin Stevens is the solo dancer who arches, bends, turns, stamps her feet and occasionally crumbles in response to the malaise their edgily drawn-out sounds produce.

At moments Stevens seems a tentative creature, uncertain how to navigate this environment. At other times, she’s confident, assertive, exulting in the score or silently arguing with it. Something has to give here – and it does. Flautist Leanna Keith breaks away from the trio, lightly creeping towards Stevens, and eventually winds up with the dancer tangled in and around her legs as she continues her flute improvisations.

“Atmokinesis,” in some ways, is dance at its most abstract, hermetic and inward-looking. Yet because of strange dealings between Stevens and the musicians, it’s also accessibly dramatic.

One curious feature of the staging: For significant stretches of the piece Stevens dances at the rear of the stage, sometimes making the musicians, closer to the audience, as eye-catching as she is – especially composer-violist Heather Bentley whose wild extended techniques on her instrument are a kind of dance unto themselves.


Michael Upchurch and Marcie Sillman work on behalf of SIDF 2018 to provide Dance Diary entries.

Michael Upchurch is a longtime Seattle arts writer who has written about dance, visual art and books for an array of publications, including Crosscut, The Seattle Times, Seattle Gay News and Cascadia. His recent fiction has appeared in Moss, Foglifter, Bellingham Review and Southwest Review.  Visit him at www.michaelupchurchauthor.com.