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Site-Specifc Dance at Seattle Center

Site-Specifc Dance at Seattle Center

: Performance: "Your Eyes Have Facets" site-specific dance at Seattle Center at the International Fountain. Photo by Chris Bennion.

Site-Specifc Dance at Seattle Center

: Performance: "Your Eyes Have Facets" site-specific dance at Seattle Center CDT dancers at Fisher Pavilion Rooftop Plaza. Photo by Chris Bennion.

Site-Specifc Dance at Seattle Center

: Performance: "Your Eyes Have Facets" at Center Skate Park. Photo by Chris Bennion.

Site-Specifc Dance at Seattle Center

: Rehearsal: "Your Eyes Have Facets" site-specific dance at Seattle Center. Photo by Joe Iano.

Site-Specifc Dance at Seattle Center

: Rehearsal: Salt Horse choreographers Corrie Befort (plaid jacket, DA '99) and Beth Graczyk (far right) working with Cornish Dance Theater dancers at Center Skate Park. Photo by Joe Iano.

Site-Specifc Dance at Seattle Center

: Rehearsal: At Center Skate Park. Photo by Joe Iano.

Site-Specifc Dance at Seattle Center

: Rehearsal: At Center Skate Park. Photo by Joe Iano.

Site-Specifc Dance at Seattle Center

: Rehearsal: CDT dancers at Fisher Pavilion Rooftop Plaza. Photo by Joe Iano.

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LAST PERFORMANCES SATURDAY: On November 9, dance lovers will be treated to a free, site-specific work capturing the energy of Seattle Center, Your Eyes Have Facets.

“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” some wag — probably comedian Martin Mull — once quipped, suggesting that both are impossible. Ignoring the difficulties that are inherent in music criticism and the pleasures of a well-constructed bon mot, it must be said that nothing could be more natural than dancing about architecture. Architecture, like dance, unfolds over time; you don’t see it all at once, but experience it bit by bit. Both are about the human form in space. Looking for proof of this? Take yourself to Seattle Center this November 3 and 9 and — for free — watch Cornish’s new site-specific dance piece, Your Eyes Have Facets. Local dance group Salt Horse has created an expansive dance phenomenon for Cornish Dance Theater (CDT) that explores the architectural spaces of the Center, stretching from the Skate Park to Fisher Pavilion Rooftop Plaza to the International Fountain. See the calendar entry for more information.

Everyone is welcome, and again, it costs nothing. To see Cornish’s gift to the Center, simply show up at the Skate Park at one of the two start times. Then you just follow the action, walking with the other members of the audience. The performances will take place rain or shine, so spectators should watch the weather and dress appropriately. It couldn’t hurt to carry an umbrella, just in case.

A recent rehearsal of the piece revealed the nature of the work. You move with the dancers over the Center grounds, following them, mingling with them, as they express with their art the moods and structures created by the architects of Seattle Center. Somehow, the meaning of actor and audience blurs, as does the meaning of pedestrian movement and choreography. Some guy with shaggy gray hair and beard, smoking a cigarette, a guy you wouldn’t have noticed moments before, is transformed briefly into an element in the dance. So too the guy laughing at the dancers as he leans on a Fisher Pavilion railing and the kids bunched together on the rim of the International Fountain, pointing and smiling. Maybe you’ve been ignoring the built environment of the Center, maybe for you it has faded into the everyday, but now you’re forced to see it, maybe for the first time. To repeat: nothing could be more natural than dancing about architecture.

Salt Horse comprises dancers and choreographers Corrie Befort (DA’99) and Beth Graczyk, and musician Angelina Baldoz. Befort and Graczyk, additionally, teach at Cornish, so it was to them that CDT came to create this season’s site-specific work, which came to be called Your Eyes Have Facets. The first thing you learn about Salt Horse as a partnership is that there is a phenomenal intellectual component to their approach. They demonstrate keenly that “intellectualizing about dance” is every bit as natural as “dancing about architecture” — and, to the uninitiated, perhaps, it’s as unexpected. For instance, Befort and Graczyk found inspiration for Your Eyes Have Facets in painting.

“We’ve been specifically interested in abstract expressionism,” says Corrie Befort of their work on the new piece. “Particularly because we did this piece at the Seattle Art Museum … we were there with a bunch of Frankenthalers and Stellas … it was so amazing. … We were really inspired by Frankenthaler, but it’s not that we were doing that specifically here, it was a way for us to talk about making trajectories in space.”

Beth Graczyk continued, emphasizing how the paintings informed their approach to creating Your Eyes Have Facets. “It was about how Frankenthaler worked. … It was the improvisation of it, rather than spending hours working on one painting. If it happened, it happened, and if it didn’t, that was OK. It was for us the idea of how to approach something … This can happen: go. Here’s a score: go. So it has a kind of vitality or vibrancy. You have to problem-solve on your feet. It’s the alchemy or the chemistry of the group that’s going to make it — or not. There is a lot we threw away because there was no chemistry.”

The work of Salt Horse is available online on Vimeo and YouTube, and making that journey is richly rewarded, especially for everyone planning to come to Seattle Center to see one of the performances. Their passionate-yet-cerebral approach, which according to Beth Graczyk is sometimes directly tied to the work of a philosopher, is best summed up by their own site: “Befort and Graczyk’s choreography continually oscillates the audience’s visual attention from expansive, full-body textures and complex spatial patterning to small, detailed and evocative gestures. Some of Seattle’s most distinctive performers have been cast in larger work. The choreography emerges from image or scenario based improvisational structures that require the creation of very specific physicalities.  For example: ‘You have birds in your head’ or ‘the room is disintegrating.’”

In Your Eyes Have Facets, the dancers will be running through a skate park, a public square and a fountain’s enormous bowl: the experience is quite different than the controlled environment of a studio, their stage is covered in concrete, not marley. “It’s a different kind of surface, you have to dance in sneakers, so how do you articulate your body when you have barriers?” says Befort. “How do you engage more in your physicality so you make it seem like it’s a beautiful smooth surface even though it’s really rough and hard?”

Graczyk and Befort think that the en plein aire experience of the site-specific work informs both their dancers and their choregraphy. “We’re trying to encourage a certain wildness in our work that’s outside a certain kind of safety of set work,” continues Befort, “where there is a sense of immediacy and therefore wildness and volatility that is potential in the work.”

Your Eyes Have Facets, a site-specific performance produced by Cornish Dance Theater, is a free event. Seattle Center, beginning at the Skate Park on the Center’s west side, on November 3 and 9. There will be two performances each day, at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Performances will take place rain or shine.


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