W-I-P Crème 2017 took place at the Palo Alto Performing Arts Black Block Theatre on Wednesday, May 31st. W-I-P Crème acts as the conclusive capstone to each W-I-P season, featuring a select number of the season’s celebrated performers and their works that have already undergone Liz Lermon's Critical Response Process. At this point, the performances have been honed to further degrees of evolution and it’s fascinating to watch them grow.
As a W-I-P Crème veteran, I can personally vouch to the powerful insights, professional development, and creative support that the W-I-P program offers to artists of all backgrounds. It’s an honor to share my reflections of this year’s show. I’d like to dedicate this Re-View to Samantha Beasley, my fellow co-creator and dance partner from ARTheism, you’ve shown me how to speak movement languages I didn’t know were possible and I wouldn’t know about W-I-P without you.
Kellen Walker’s “Low Tide” began with a translucent chair centered on stage. Then, Kellen arose in the back row of the audience, slowly walking down the stairs in her heels taking loud, percussive slow steps in time with the beats of the music. Once on stage she swiftly and defiantly brushed each length of her arms with opposing palms to waft a minty licorice fragrance from an essential oil (po sum on) towards the audience. She eventually turned towards the chair, lowered herself like a bull about to charge, pushed against the chair arms, her sliding heels taking her nowhere with the chair slightly budging. She sat in the chair and meticulously removed each heel before walking several alternating strides while looking back at the chair until she walked away looking forward confidently.
The show notes say she “found an opportunity to create a personal ritual to digest heartache and eventual liberation from the process of surviving my divorce.” Having witnessed the previous iteration of this work in the Spring, I noticed that her choice in dress transitioned from multi-colored to white, accentuating the concept further. This work is evolving into a dance film being recorded on what would have been her 5th wedding anniversary in the same location she was wed. As a personal friend of Kellen’s, I must say I’m extremely proud of her ability to use art as a healing tool for herself and am excited that she’s sharing the process publicly.
The second performance brought Alamotion to the stage with “To Build a Home”. 15 dancers specializing in tap, jazz, hip hop, ballet and modern dance displayed a wealth of technique whose combined coordinated movements seemed to impressively undulate like a single larger organism or swarming murmuration of birds. This allowed for a diverse exploration of pattern and texture to constantly paint the living canvas of the stage. There were moments of joy, conflict and resolution through individual isolation and support of the collective group.
Mina Willis’ solo work, “Breathe”, exhibited a synthesis of contrasts: graceful + grotesque, sophisticated + primal - all built on a foundation of extreme power through articulated forms with spellbinding results. A sense of pulsating energy was palpable considering the apt title. Her work evoked a honed yet raw cinematic quality. She’s one of the first dancers to complete the new W-I-P Youth program of Fall 2016, suggesting that she and program have promising and exciting futures.
NXG Dance Crew’s “Life" brought street dance to the stage through an explosive combination of popping, breaking and tutting movements that bridged the organic with the robotic. Each of the 3 casually dressed dancers expressed their own unique flavor by taking turns and seeming to pass invisible energy between one another, awakening still statues into powerful animated forces of life. During intermission, the dance crew showed nearby curious audience members how to hand tut. From across the room, I started to practice myself, enjoyed doing so and had an increased admiration for the coordination and practice needed to effortlessly do so.
Chrissy Ketchum of the Ballet Arts School choreographed “Proof of Life” onto 4 of her student dancers. They alternated between simultaneously moving independently and partnering up with contact, periodically with elegant lifts. The energy of this work felt sophisticated yet authentically honest with emotional expression. During this piece, I envisioned viewing the stage from above and drawing the geometric shapes carved by their movements. I think the even number of dancers and their particular mirror like movements would create beautiful symmetrical designs.
Juan Pablo Roblesgil’s "Ego Sym Alpha Et O" invited the audience to contemplate ritual through the use of a thurible, a type of metal censer suspended from chains burning with incense inside. This was reinforced by the visible smoke, its aroma and Juan’s periodic use of a robe for wearing and wafting. The duration consisted of modern and ballet movement seemingly depicting an inner conversation of struggle and ecstasy.
Juan’s tunic like outfit further emphasized an interplay between tradition and modern aesthetics. I had witnessed his earlier W-I-P performance in the Spring and it was interesting to notice the changes in the work that emphasized the relationship with the thurible and new inclusion of the robe.
The final performer of the evening, guest artist, Tara Smartnick, of Aerial Horizon closed out on a literal high note. She shared an aerial performance with a custom crescent moon shaped variation of an aerial hoop, also known as a lyra. The crescent lyra allowed for new forms of aerial movement unfamiliar to me and and Tara’s skillful relationship with it portends a well versed dance partnership consisting of trust, gravity, metal, inertia and incredible strength. Omnipresent dazzling feats were taken to the next level by several bouts of sustained spinning.
Afterwards, we were all brought down to earth with a dessert reception featuring cupcakes and punch.
W-I-P Crème 2017 featured an eclectic mixture of styles from different backgrounds, an effective use of props and even the use of fragrance in two works. The overall flow of the performances provided contrast by mostly alternating between solo and group works. The bookends of the evening used centrally placed props providing an interesting elemental transformation considering that the opening work featured a translucent, motionless plastic chair on the ground while the final work utilized a suspended black crescent moon made of metal that could rotate - from ground to air, immobility to freedom of movement, clear to opaque and an increase in strength and stability. These seem apt metaphors for the growth oriented process that the W-I-P program embodies and continues to deliver.