A show with two intermissions says one thing to me: marathon drinking. Maybe that's not what Northwest Dance Project had in mind for its Spring Performances, now at the Newmark Theater, but what else is a patron to do? We're facing a 30-minute contemporary dance number followed by a 15-minute break, and then another number followed by another break, and the bar is right down the hall.
NWDP premiered two works for the show, one by artistic director Sarah Slipper and another by guest French choreographer Patrick Delcroix. A third piece, Chi by guest choreographer Wen Wei Wong, is a repeat from 2009. Honestly, the show could do without Chi. As it is, the evening runs more than two hours, and the other two pieces are better and should stand on their own.
The show begins with Chi, but thereâs not much to say about it; itâs creeping, alien-like and nap-inducing (the person next to me indeed dozed off). The biggest redeeming quality is the skimpy outfits, which for a contemporary dance show are suspiciously missing elsewhere.
But then we move on to round two, with second drinks in hand (safely under their plastic lids), for Sarah Slipperâs Casual Act. Based on Harold Pinterâs Betrayal, whose plot is exactly what it sounds like, the piece revolves, quite literally, around a rotating stage prop: three panels of drywall, joined in the middle, accented with door and window cutouts. Itâs immediately apparent that this piece is more theatrical than Chi: The dancers are wearing street clothes, so they look like actors, and then one starts talking, although not altogether audibly because heâs not wearing a microphone.
What follows is a twisting tale of two couples: He loves her, she loves him, she looks out the window at the guy next door....you see where this is going. In the various duets between the dancers, the women are twisted about the men, carried and held on shoulders. The female protagonist flails her legs in the air like a fish out of water, and at other times writhes like a beetle on its back. Slipper has an interesting way of connecting dancers with unexpected body parts. Sometimes they work: A woman places her flexed foot on a manâs chest before jumping into a lift, but other times theyâre awkward, like when the woman is briefly bent over a manâs knee in what looks like a spanking.
The second intermission ushers in Delcroixâs Drifting Thoughts, a piece that finally brings some energy to the show. Thumping tribal sounds of Harri Kakoulli and others replace the lyrical scores of the previous pieces, and the dancers start to move with gusto. Particularly inspiring is the work by dancer Ching Ching Wong, whose acrobatics shine here and elsewhere in the show. I often say shorter dancers are the ones to watch; with the height-ism in the dance world, the short ones wouldnât be performing unless they were excellent.
The ensemble is certainly at its most powerful in the finale, a pounding formation number. But the dancersâ technique shines more brightly in the slower numbers, which is likely why these are so numerous. The show has an appreciable quality of hometown talent, which gets better as the show goes onâand not just because of the booze breaks.