Dance Who You Are

Four international companies gather and collaborate in Seattle.

Some dance styles are focused on a common vocabulary; everyone learns the same steps, hoping to dance them in the same way. But modern dance, a genre nurtured in polyglot America, is focused in another direction. Its original admonition—"dance who you are"—puts the emphasis on the individual. So the four ensembles appearing in Beyond the Threshold, a new international festival curated by Cyrus Khambatta of Phffft Dance Theatre Company, reflect both the artists' countries of origin and the personal journeys they took to get here.

Khambatta, who brought Phffft to Seattle from New York City in 2003, keeps his company moving, dancing in Europe as well as locally. While in France, he met choreographer Veronique Solé and saw her group, Collectif Entre Deux. "It was a very decadent style of movement, very confrontational," Khambatta says, comparing it to the theatrical style of Pina Bausch. Physically, the bodies are working at extremes, "almost towards injury," creating a environment of tension that propels the works' dramatic sense. "It's story-driven, miniature stories, like [the film] Amélie, with little occurrences that are interconnected." Khambatta was fascinated with Solé's intensity and wanted to see more of her work, but also wanted his company to participate, and so approached her about collaboration. Collectif's appearances here are the beginning of a yearlong project to create a new work for both groups, which is expected to premiere in 2007. In the meantime, Solé and her company will share Friday's and Sunday's performances with Phffft, performing Alors, il y a de l'espoir (So, there is hope), a dance theater piece based on the work of Argentinian playwright Rodrigo Garcia.

The second evening of the festival, Saturday, will be shared by two ensembles with ties to both the U.S. and Latin America. Valéria Ball began dancing in her native Brazil, but founded Traduza Dance Company after she had relocated to Oregon, combining samba and capoeira influences with American traditions. Her movement style can be very lush and flowing, with a strong dramatic undercurrent and an intense emotional connection between the performers. Pablo Cornejo had already begun to choreograph as a student in Ecuador, touring Cuba, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela before moving to the U.S. He directs Locate Performance Group along with Paige Barnes and has created a series of intense and mysterious works for them. Based in Seattle and already well known in the dance community, Locate will perform Cornejo's Sleeping in the Lightning Field.

Khambatta hopes to make this festival an annual event, forging connections between Seattle artists and their colleagues in other countries, bringing individuals together to dance who they are, as well as where they come from.

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