echoes of so many things that had come before Apr 19, 2013
The Finale is a fantastic night of entertainment. Or course, my view of it may be skewed a bit by the fact that I have been following the entire Collision Theory project for the better part of a year. And that journey was the basis for a lot of what I loved about the show. It’s great fun to see little pieces of so many of the previous events show up in the final show. From the text, to the music, to the movement, there were echoes of so many things that had come before.
But that’s not to say that one had to be a devoted follower of the project to enjoy the show. While all of those bits were fascinating to the core group of fans, the show still stands very well on its own. The relaxed atmosphere of the opening and the transformation of the OtB space gave the show a much more intimate presence than the 230 seat capacity might suggest.
The music from KT, Ivory, and Scott Colburn is terrific, and the company of dancers is outstanding. The combination of the music, spoken word, and dance has a great balance that gives the show a wonderful, relaxed aura. The choreography suggests that a lot of planning has gone into the performance, but the presentation often gives the feeling of something that is happening in the now, off the cuff. It’s a very cool thing to behold as it all meshes together.
I love watching you watch dance. Apr 19, 2013
I get a huge bang out of seeing a space transformed and On the Boards satisfies my itch every time. KT Niehoff”s Collision Theory “The Finale” was staged (excuse the expression) perfectly. Upon entering OtB’s Main Stage, I felt like I had arrived at a boxing event with the audience sitting on all four sides, complete with a hung rectangle of small lights illuminating the white rectangular floor. I am affected deeply by imagery, and from the get go “the Finale” had me intrigued.
As I sit before the opening of a show or event I enjoy looking around, not with a meandering eye but with an eye focused on detail and searching for more information on what led to this production and what may appear in front of me throughout the evening. Looking up, I saw a limited amount of lighting instruments. To my right and left as well as across the white floor I noticed tall tables in each corner, they were well braced, and I got excited at the possibility of dancers moving on and around them. Two microphones were on stands and the dancers were mingling with the audience. Ambient music played in the background and the audience, full of familiar Seattle dance faces, men, women, a few kids, some recognizable and some strangers to me, enjoyed talking to one another, engaging with the dancers when they approached them. All this was effortless, easy, fun. I read that KT wanted “The Finale” to have the feel of a reunion and coming from the mid-west where reunions and weddings are a large part of our social structure and enjoyment, I was looking forward to that feeling – it was there…the ritual of smiling and talking, drinking and hugging, loud laughs and easy conversation. An atmosphere of contentment rather then anticipation for the show to begin. The experience was fluid and constant, no beginning; it had begun as soon as I walked in. One of the performers Sean came and sat next to my friend. They chatted, and having known each other it was just small talk with a twinge of “hmmm, this is slightly different because I know you are “performing” in a moment” but wait, are you performing now?” Nope. The dancers were casual, relaxed, and seemed welcoming. I wondered, how do they do that? Maybe they are the kind of performers who love to talk, who enjoy a bit of schmoo-zing. I wondered if I could do that: chit-chat with an audience before a performance? And what does that mean anyways… my main goal as an artist is to connect to the audience, but if I cannot literally talk to them then am I really able to connect? Is there a feeling of security in performance mode for most artists? And likewise is there a feeling of security within the ritual of the traditional performance for the audience? We know what to expect, when in general it can happen, and how to outwardly react. Crap. That kind of sucks.
You see, I like the unknown. I like to be surprised (love surprise parties in fact) and to contemplate that I may have fallen into a stale trap of experiences and expectations was a bit startling. And delightful. And, sigh, this is why I go see dance/theater/live performance/etc. etc. etc….and you know, the show had not even “begun” yet. The lights dim and holy shit, (I know I may be behind the times on this information) KT can sing! I am not talking kind of muddle your way through karaoke night and wow the guys who have tossed down a few too many, I am talking sing beautifully, fully, superbly. YES! Remember, surprise for me is so good. Ivory, her fellow singer is amazing, and together they string harmony and melody, overlapping and arcing voices, fulfilling to the ear and soul. Remember those microphones standing alone? They were grabbed from their stands and walked to separate tables at opposite corners and upon that mini-stage Ivory and KT sang. And I melted. Now, I could give you a blow-by-blow breakdown of the performance from here but why would I ruin the surprise? You deserve the full experience of coming to ‘The Finale”. So, let me say this. I love watching you watch dance. I love the way the audience takes in or rejects a moment of performance with their whole body. I watch the audience about as much as I watch the performers when I am at an event. And, most time this is difficult, as I sit sandwiched by fellow patrons, desperately trying to peer sideways and maybe sneak a peek back to catch a glimpse of your eyes, the fold of your arms, the width and length of your yawn, the tears from your eyes, the smile upon your lips, or even better the anticipation that lies in your eyes as you watch the dance unfold. Thank you KT for allowing me to be a part of the whole, for giving me the opportunity to not only feel but to see the experience unfold in the eyes of another. It was delightful and liberating to have the freedom to watch where and when and what I so chose. I found that my wandering eye was allowed because it was actually encouraged by the artist herself. I was able to take in so much, in large part, because of the environment that was so meticulously designed and executed by KT.
Leaving On the Boards Thursday night, I was reminded of my first experience at Northwest New Works as a performer for The Three Yells and how the theater supports and produces both local and national artists and how thankful I am that they present shows like KT’s “The Finale”. As an artist I have created work in Seattle for 10 years and people like KT give me strength and push my desire to continue. She perseveres. KT has a clear vision and executes it fully. Because of the shared stories and the open, welcoming, reunion nostalgia of “The Finale” I left with a sense of history, of involvement, of having a hand, or a voice, or at least an eye on the future of the dance/art in Seattle. And, it felt good.
Beginner’s Guide to Collision Theory: The Finale Apr 11, 2013
1. KT Niehoff is a longstanding force in the contemporary dance community in Seattle. A life-long vocalist and NYU graduate with a degree in Theater, KT was taken by surprise when shortly after college she realized her true passion was dance. After attending dance class furiously in New York to improve as quickly as possible, she ended up moving to Seattle along with Michelle Miller to be a part of the Pat Graney Dance Company. Upon arrival, KT admits she had a, “What have I done?!” moment after leaving the robust dance community in New York. However, KT is not one to mope; she instead set out to strengthen Seattle’s contemporary dance community. Along with Miller, KT founded Velocity Dance Center in 1996, four years after moving to Seattle. KT was the director of Velocity for the next 10 years, until 2006, and started the nationally recognized programs, Strictly Seattle and SCUBA. She currently runs 10 degrees, a beautiful dance studio in Capitol Hill which offers residencies and is also where KT’s company rehearses.
2. As a choreographer and artist, KT is drawn to multidisciplinary and audience interactive performances. Early in her career, she choreographed for traditional, proscenium spaces. One of these pieces, Relatively Real, premiered at On the Boards in 2005. However, making work for the stage was lonely and unsatisfying for KT, so she left the stage in 2006 and has rarely gone back since. In 2007, KT started Lingo Productions, a group devoted to pushing the boundaries between artist and audience. One of their first works as a group in 2007, The Lift Project, pushed those boundaries quite literally as performers took the weight of passerby’s at the Pike Place market and pushed them up part of the hill climb, daily, for a month. Other performances by Lingo Productions have tested the boundaries between performer and spectator in pieces like Inhabit, a 2007 production where dancers transitioned between dancer and party-goer over the course of a 2 hour long party, or A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light, held in the basement of ACT, which featured a live band, theatrical dance performances and functioned like an underground night club.
3. KT’s career has been remarkably fruitful and made a huge impact. She’s a current MAP fund recipient, has been an Artist Trust Fellow, and a 2006 MANCC Fellow. She was named Dance Artist of the Year by Seattle Magazine in 2007, was featured in Dance Magazine’s “International Women of Dance” issue in 2008, and was on the cover of Dance Teacher Magazine in 2012. Her work has been shown around the country at prestigious venues such as ACT Theater (Seattle), On the Boards (Seattle), The Joyce SoHo (NY), SUSHI (San Diego) and The Southern Theater (Minneapolis), as well as internationally in Japan, Ecuador, Germany and Canada.
4. Collision Theory began last year at the 2012 North West New Works Festival with an interactive dance and letter writing performance called, Paper Trail. It was the first of the many performances, films, fashion shows, parties, and letter writing campaigns of Collision Theory held for audiences ranging in size from one to hundreds. KT explains the point of Collision Theory, or the connecting line, is not in an aesthetic continuity or connective narrative, but is in the continuity of the audience. Collision Theory: The Finale is not only the finale of this year long project, it also marks the finale of Lingo Productions. The piece, viewed in its entirety seems like an encapsulation and perfect capstone representing many of the ideas KT has played with over the course of her dance career surrounded by the community she helped to build.
5. If you can’t wait for The Finale, tide yourself over by checking out this trippy dance film by KT called Parts Don’t Work (2011). It was filmed at the now defunct Fun Forest amusement park under the Space Needle and has shown at the American Dance Festival, NEXT Dance Film Festival and the San Francisco Dance Film Festival.
Niehoff/Lingo’s ‘Collision’: pretty parts, vague impact
KT Niehoff/Lingo Productions’ latest show, ‘Collision Theory: The Finale,’ the culminating chapter in a yearlong multimedia odyssey of events, offers some beguiling song and dance while staying mighty vague in intention. Through April 21, 2013.
By Michael Upchurch
Seattle Times arts writer
Ivory Smith, pictured, and KT Niehoff wrote gorgeously spacey songs for “Collision Theory”
Enlarge this photo
Ivory Smith, pictured, and KT Niehoff wrote gorgeously spacey songs for “Collision Theory”
‘Collision Theory: The Finale’
8 p.m. through Sunday, On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., Seattle; $12-$20 (206-217-9888 or www.ontheboards.org).
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KT Niehoff/Lingo Productions’ latest show, “Collision Theory: The Finale,” is the last installment in a yearlong series of events that have included pen-pal exchanges, a pop-up art exhibit, a communal meal, a brief film program, a fashion show and “a long, loose night of unfettered desire and primal delight” dubbed “Raucous Bacchus.” The idea behind it all was to create a far greater intimacy between performers and audience members than usually occurs.
“My hope,” Niehoff writes in her “Finale” artist’s note, “was that by the end, the performers would know the audience by name (or at least by face) and the collective memories cultivated along the way would create a subtext of belonging.”
Not everyone, of course, has time to devote to one artist’s multiple events when there’s so much else going on in this art-crazed town. And why, exactly, does Niehoff want to get on such intimate terms with her audience? What’s the advantage, for an audience, of “belonging” rather than watching absorbedly? She doesn’t really say.
Nevertheless, glimpses of her elaborate multimedia odyssey promised a marvel or two for this finale: fantastical costumes, for one thing, going by the films and photographs, and lively flirtation with exhibitionist urges, going by the letters. (“I haven’t felt, in a long time, like the kind of sloppy I like to feel. A little bit messy, but in the sexiest, most productive of ways….”)
Lingo’s “Finale” delivers some gorgeously spacey songs, some willowy/acrobatic dance … and some very vague intentions. Quite a bit of that pen-pal correspondence turns up in it. The fantastical film costumes, however, are nowhere to be seen.
Dancers perform mostly on a square white mat in the center of the theater, surrounded by the audience on four sides. But they’re far from confined to that mat. Sturdy elevated platforms in the corners of the theater accommodate much of their action. They also prowl between seat-rows, occasionally carrying out precisely choreographed actions there.
The greatest pleasure comes when they serve up swivelly dance moves in plain view. Sean Tomerlin, a sort of tall, slinky faun, has some great bendy moments in duet with Emily Sferra. Markeith Wiley and Jul Kostelancik also have a canny, limber, taffylike way with each other.
Evan Merryman Ritter’s light design, always on the move, cannily shifts focus from one part of the theater to another, helping to keep the fourth wall permeable. The music likewise seems to shift the shape of the room, as it phases from one trance-inducing tune to the next.
Niehoff and her collaborator Ivory Smith wrote the music and handle the vocals, and in their slow, dreamy, harmonizing techno-pop way, they couldn’t be more seductive. I’d happily load their songs on my iPod and hang their surreal publicity photos on my wall. But what does it all add up to?
Niehoff, in an interview on OtB’s website, gives the game away when she admits, “Well it’s a confusing mess, is what it is. … Everything’s supposed to connect and it’s not! It’s not connecting!”
Still, it was a pretty enough mess to get a standing ovation on Thursday night.