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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Northwest Dance Project in Review

Posted by Jenna Lechner on Sat, Mar 30, 2013 at 5:53 PM

On a lovely Portland night like this, you might not want to find yourself sitting in a dark, chilly theater. However, Northwest Dance Project totally makes it worth it. Tonight is the final run of Spring Performances.

Not surprisingly, Northwest Dance Project impresses with their talent (two of their company dancers have been awarded the prestigious Princess Grace award in recent years). The performance features three different works, two of which are world premieres. The standout may just be Casual Act, by NWDP's artistic director Sarah Slipper. Five dancers take on Harold Pinter’s preeminent play Betrayal; the dancers rotate through different permutations of couples, fueled by passion and infidelity. Casual Act also features one of the most striking element of all of the performances: a large, white, minimalist set, which revolves in the center of the stage—it has three walls, a rectangle cut out to suggest a window, and a rectangle cut out to suggest a door. It’s simple, but affective. It serves as a subtle suggestion of domestic space and as a descriptive suggestion of the events within that space. As the dancers move and rotate the set, it suggests change, loss, and instability; the tangled web of love and lies unravels. The dancing is desparate, sometimes clingy, but also steamy and athletic. The push and pull between performers is extreme: the physical tension imparts emotional tension.

Elijah Labay and Andrea Parson in a high-tension moment of Casual Act.

It’s high drama and cinematic, which, on that note, comes my one complaint of the work: at times the music is too forceful with emotions (the speakers pour out sweeping, wrenching tunes from Max Richter and Yann Tiersen). However by and large it's an overwhelmingly involving work, expertly danced.

Choreographers Patrick Delcroix and Wen Wei Wang also present pieces. Wen Wei Wang’s Chi is all about energy, not surprisingly, given the title. There’s a lot of cinema in this work as well, as it draws from martial arts and Kung Fu films—sometimes the movements are drawn out, as if the dancers are in slow-motion. Always the movements are focused and concentrated; they're never nervous motions, always purposeful. Drifting Thoughts, by Frenchman Delcroix, is the most casual piece of the night. It starts with rhythmic drum beats, with a lot of emphasis on hips and torsos, and a strong focus on the dancers as a group. It even solicits a few hoots and hollers from the audience. In the end we're left with an appropriately celebratory note for both the season and such an inspiring company.

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