The Dance+ festival, which community dance hub Conduit is presenting for a third year, encourages collaboration between dancers and other artists—sculptors, sound engineers, video game designers, etc. Multimedia shows aren't uncommon, but the pieces in the Dance+ festival unite art forms rather than juxtaposing them.
In the festival's first program, which runs this weekend, interactive video artist Paul Clay shows a video in which an animated, shirtless version of himself walks through a Target parking lot, surrounded by dancing traffic cones. His collaborator, electronic music composer Todd Barton, synchronizes beats with the parking lot lights as they turn on and off. Eventually, the Sim-like Clays multiply and rush the store, some of them popping into explosions of blood as they, presumably, trample each other. Clay, who writes and sings his own electronic pop music, is billed as the choreographer in this piece, which is titled Black Friday: Parking Lot Dance II, but he doesn't physically dance in it (like he does in his music videos). Instead, he programs his little clone characters to shift, turn and pose—or maybe that counts as dance?
Jen Hackworth collaborates with sculptor Meghann Gilligan in Beast, and Gilligan's sculptures are undoubtedly the stars of the piece. One is a huge, amorphous, black headpiece, speckled with feathers. It looks like a creature from Alien mated with a vulture to produce a deformed baby. Hackworth, along with Claire Barrera and Keyon Gaskin, perform with this headpiece and other sculptures (Gaskin most of the time hides behind what looks like a small paper replica of the Sydney Opera House). The movement is fairly basic, though without Barrera wearing the alien-vulture headpiece, the audience wouldn't get to see it come alive as it does.
A piece called Revivify by sound engineer Roland Toledo has a similar problem. Toledo, wearing a metallic mask, stands behind a diamond-shaped console, like deadmau5 helming a dance party. Behind him, butoh artists Mizu Desierto and Stephanie Lanckton wear black body suits and sparkly silver caps that cover their heads, as they slowly create angular poses. Toledo, who has a background as a landscape architect, approaches sound elements like design elements, listening to their properties and layering them together to create structure. Desierto and Lanckton, in this case, are almost window dressing. As they moved slowly across the floor in typical butoh fashion, I almost wished the piece were performed in darkness, so I could pay full attention to the sound—an intriguing cascade of nature, speech and electronica.
The most powerful moments come from Anna Conner and her company out of Seattle. Their piece, Luna, contains the most straightforward dancing of the program. Three dancers, Conner included, perform a Darwinian ballet, with dancer Julia Cross consistently showing that she's the alpha of the group. She drops Conner to the floor and steps on her face. She faces off with dancer Autumn Tselios, and when Tselios goes to grab her hand—psych!—Cross pulls it away and Tselios falls down. Unlike the more abstract pieces, this one tells a story, and the dancers tell it with emotion written on their faces and in their bodies. Their movement is strong, too: quick, dynamic and totally synchronized. Conner has no divergent collaborator for this piece, but the work is solid enough on its own.
SEE IT: Dance+ is at Conduit Dance, 918 SW Yamhill St., Ste. 401, 221-5857. 8 pm Friday-Saturday, July 11-12. $17-$20. Tickets here.