Dance: Autopsy of Love

[PICK] Autopsy of Love

Emerald City Trapeze Arts, 2702 Sixth Ave.S., 325-4161, $20–$25. 8 p.m. Thurs.–Sat. Ends June 29.

Donald Byrd is still puzzled about love. Last spring the choreographer made a vertiginous set of dances (Love) that seemed to turn the topic inside out, but apparently he had more questions on the subject. He’s framed his latest inquiry in the form of an autopsy, to determine “if romantic love is dead.” Complete with a white-draped gurney and a set of lab-coated researchers, Autopsy of Love examines the emotion in a series of dances that range from giddy infatuation to obsession.

The heart of the work is a series of duets that mix and match performers. Derek Crescenti and Stacie L Williams are mutually infatuated—at one point he bounces and wags his tail like a dog while she scratches behind his ears. Ty Alexander Cheng and Shadou Mintrone are eternally attracted and angry, in a ramped-up version of the traditional Apache dance. Donald Jones Jr. and Jade Solomon Curtis start out in a fairly sedate partner dance, but it soon escalates with legs swept overhead and backs bent to the floor. Over and over, through multiple partnerships, one person pursues while the other rejects. Blissful moments when two people are on the same wavelength are both welcome and rare. Byrd’s high-tension style is more suited to ecstasy than to ease.

Autopsy links the romantic obsessions of the 19th century with contemporary excess, and its score alternates between Robert Schumann’s Dichterliebe (sung live by Clayton Brainerd) and selections from Amy Winehouse. Byrd also includes poetry from Heinrich Heine. Thus the lead “researcher” (actor Andrew McGinn) compares Mintrone (lying on the gurney) to the heartless Lorelei as he conducts his final examination before autopsy. He seems to hold out little hope for love as Byrd has rendered it, saying of the stage proceedings, “As enemies they saw each other, and almost died of their love.”

Byrd is celebrating his 10th year of leading Spectrum Dance Theater. Since his arrival in Seattle, he has challenged his dancers and confronted his audiences, assuming that both will rise to the occasion. The process, like love itself, has not been painless, but the results have been most impressive.

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