Co-Motion Dance has gone through several transitions during its 21-year history in Seattle, so it's appropriate that their upcoming concert, "Dancing Through the Wall," deals with issues of aging and transformation. In this program, codirectors Gail Heilbron and Jesse Jaramillo address their changing abilities as dancers and their desire to remain performers rather than "retiring" into administrative positions and leaving the hard stuff for younger bodies. Throughout the performance there are kinetic and verbal references to the increasing challenge of a physical art form, acknowledgment of loss, and curiosity about new possibilities. Heilbron and Jaramillo recognize the passage of time, but they're certainly not going to whine about it.
Broadway Performance Hall
Co-Motion began as a loose collective designed to offer performance opportunities to its members. Over the years, some of those members have come and gone, but Jaramillo and Heilbron have remained. They both come from a modern dance tradition with long-lived models—Martha Graham stopped performing at 75, and Jos頌im�as still on stage in his 60s. A commitment to expression and communication permeates their work—not just the exhilaration of physical skill. And though their legs may not shoot as high as they did in the past, they both perform with a kind of elegant efficiency that comes from maturity; their skills come from longevity. "Dancing Through the Wall" is as much a showcase for this pair's partnership as anything else, and watching them tweak the mechanics of a lift makes the whole operation seem deceptively simple.
The program opens on Heilbron as a "Crone Lady," a crabbed and fragile victim recounting past dangers. As she begins to move, though, her back straightens and her gaze lifts until she's dancing full out, loping across the space. Jaramillo enters, and they both cover ground with the weighted swinging and breathy suspensions that mark so much of their work.
After the intermission, their performance shifts to more theatrical material. The two collaborated with actors Susy Schneider and Bill terKuile to create the characters "The Great Rudolfo Facune" and "Sylvie, a Long Island Dolly Parton." Rudolfo, who choreographs the "Dance of the New Millennium" and Sylvie, his only performer, may be caricatures, but they also reveal some truths about dance and its place in society. Much of the work in this program has been developed over the last couple years and showcased in a series of "Etudes," studio performances that solicited audience feedback. Both performers feel this process has allowed them to explore new choreographic territory.
Heilbron and Jaramillo see "Dancing Through the Wall" as an examination of their history as well as a contemplation of their future. In one of the duets from the show's first half, they include quotations from several of their early dances. For longtime members of the Seattle dance audience, it's like watching pieces of the last 21 years fly by.