Conduit's Dance+ Festival is a grab bag of acts, mostly dance numbers with a little something extra. The performances are so divergent that the show as a whole is unlikely to be a crowd pleaser, but that's the price you pay for experimentation.
The show, now in its second year, is a combination of mostly regional performers selected by a panel. The goal is to showcase work thatâs innovative and exploratory, so the acts donât always fit the mold of contemporary dance. Among the lineup is a culture clash between traditional Indian and Japanese styles, as well as an absurd piece of multimedia performance art. The pieces arenât entirely disparate, as all have at least minimal contemporary movement, but theyâre dissimilar enough to alienate someone who just wants to see straightforward dancing.
Dance-wise, the show has some solid numbers. Jessica Hightower, in one of her first choreographed works, joins familiar partner Keely McIntyre for Problem of Bias, an eerie duet in which the two manipulate each other like creepy ventriloquist dummies. The two move fluidly through grand battements and pivot into unnerving vogue poses. They continue this way, moving and pausing, to a soundtrack that ranges from chirping birds to horror-movie carnival music.
Another dance standout is actually a video, Clipped Wing, choreographed by Kara Girod Shuster. While the movement in the video is beautiful and dramatic, the dancing is overshadowed by the slick cinematography of Christopher Peddecord. The performers, all talented locals, chase each other around moss-covered ruins and roll around in a bed. Peddecord's shooting elevates the intrigue, from images of their white costumes in a lush forest to closeups of dancer Franco Nietoâs hands clinging to Shusterâs ankles as she drags him through a hallway.
The more avant-garde works are more challenging to watch but may hold promise for those whose tastes lean that way. Portlandâs Subashini Ganesan and Michelle Fujii are experts in their fields, and their mix of South Indian Bharathanatyam dance and Japanese taiko prove interesting, even if all the drum beating grows mildly annoying. The performance-art piece by Seattleâs Ulrich/Graczyk/Baldoz deserves less forgiveness. Titled Cacophony for 8 Players, the piece is an assault to the ears with a blaring live trumpet and a soundtrack of moans that sound like the worst of Lana Del Rey. The groupâs long-bearded leader Torben Ulrich (father of Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich) mumbles inaudibly into a microphone while shaking a rice bowl. Meanwhile, performer Angelina Baldoz tinkers with an art installation before throwing tin lids across the room. According to the groupâs Kickstarter page, the piece is supposed to be about eight people from the past, from an Indian philosopher to modern dance legends. Not that you'd know it from watching it.