"Alone is the devil"

Whim W'Him dancers rehearse "Alone is the devil," a new work by Whim W'Him artistic director Olivier Wevers, which is based loosely on the seven deadly sins.

Dancer Jim Kent steps in front of a wheeled mirror, perched on its legs. Six other dancers crowd behind the mirror, pushing it around the studio.

Kent looks at himself intently in the mirror and begins touching himself.

“Yeah, really vain there Jimmy: You love the image that you’re seeing,” said Olivier Wevers, Whim W’Him artistic director, to Kent.

Wevers and the dancers were rehearsing his new work, “Alone is the devil” for a new program titled X-Posed, to be performed by the Seattle dance company from May 29 to 31 at Seattle Center’s Cornish Playhouse. The program features three works by Wevers, French choreographer Manuel Vignoulle, and Seattle-based Kate Wallich.

“[The show] has three very unique voices,” Wevers said. “We want to support local choreographers, that’s why we’ve asked Kate, but we also look on the national level and the international level and that’s how I found Manuel.”

The three works are as diverse as their creators. In Wevers’ new work, which is loosely based on the seven deadly sins, Kent will be in flesh-colored clothing, while the other six will be dressed in all black with heads covered. At the end of the piece, Kent goes back and forth between having his head covered and exposed. Each time he’s covered, another’s person becomes exposed and influences the dynamic of the group.

“So it’s basically another dominant [characteristic] comes out of the persona,” Wevers said. “They represent the same person, but a different aspect of their personalities. I call them the creatures that’s in him.”

In contrast, Wallich’s work “♥” (pronounced “Black Heart”) is more contemplative. Music by Aaron Otheim — a unique cacophony of orchestral sounds — becomes a backdrop for the different relationships that emerge between the dancers throughout the piece.

“There’s sort of these underlying strings of narratives that happen,” Wallich said. “Spatially it’s about relationships, different relationships in a design sensibility like ‘Oh there’s a circle or a line,’ but not necessarily giving context to that circle versus giving context to that line, for example. … There’s relationships that’s evolving.”

In the work, although a dancer’s location in space in relation to another dancer may suggest a relationship, sometimes they may not physically touch or acknowledge each other. Other times, they can be intensely intertwined.

Wallich’s distinct movement vocabulary will also be on full display in her work. The dancers display striking movement architectures and smooth athletic qualities as though charged by an electrifying force, yet simultaneously controlling and embodying that force. Every now and then, classical ballet movements like turns on one leg will emerge.

“Whim W’Him is more of a contemporary ballet company,” Wallich said. “Knowing that, it’s opening this sort of realm of space for me to be like, ‘OK let’s recall on ballet, let’s recall on other formats that I may not necessarily have access to with my own dancers [in my company] because … they have different physical capabilities.’”

Vignoulle’s work, on the other hand, plays more with group dynamics. As the title, “RIPple efFECT,” suggests, his work is influenced by ideas of chain reactions. From sequences of high-powered movements in unison, the dancers would break up into trios and duets, getting sucked back into the group like amoebas.

“I always love the notion of group and trying to find harmony somehow in the group, even if you have very eclectic people,” Vignoulle said.

Throughout, the dancers embodied a systematic sensibility as though human dominoes with ripples of movements going through the group. One gesture of the arm would lead into another person shifting their weight or kicking their leg.

“The idea is what is the influence we have on others?” he said. “It’s all about going with the flow and following different influences instead of resisting.”

Throughout the program, all seven Whim W’Him dancers will be dancing in all three works. With just nine weeks to prepare for the show, Wevers said the dancers have been adaptable.

“Every time I come and watch, I’m really impressed with what the dancers are doing and I know these guys really well, yet I’m still impressed by their talent,” Wevers said. “They rise to the occasion every time.”

At the end of the process, Wallich said bringing the works into the theater is exciting because then the sound score, lighting, and other elements can come together.

“It’s like a coloring book,” Wallich said. “Everything can start to be filled in.”

 

Reach Podcast Editor Imana Gunawan at arts@dailyuw.comTwitter: @imanafg

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