Oh, what a night! Spectrum Dance Theater’s “Farewell” at Seattle’s Moore Theatre was nothing short of spectacular. (Or to use the phrase I used immediately following the show: “That was so freaking good!”)
The audio backdrop to this piece consists of part live music by local Chinese-American composer Byron Au Yong, part speaking (the dancers recited various speeches about democracy and economics through megaphones), and part recordings from emergency responders and news reports. This overlapping onslaught of sound which comes at you from all directions was at times very difficult to listen to. The people’s cries for change barely rose above the din of media coverage and political propaganda, which I felt symbolized how the media often confuses and drowns out the truth.
During Farewell, audience members sit directly on and around the stage, either in chairs or on metal bleachers, which provides an intimate—or in the case of the bleachers—a deliberately uncomfortable feel. The scenery is comprised of a large photograph of China’s Chairman Mao which hangs above the stage’s large podium. On this podium sits Spectrum’s Artistic Director, Donald Byrd who signals the dancers with the word “Go” throughout the show. Oversized imagery featuring Tiananmen Square and September 11th are suspended from the ceiling, most of which are difficult to look at.
But then, that’s the point.
Speaking of tears; as the performance moved into the September 11th attacks and the audio recordings made by New York emergency responders were played, there was hardly a dry eye around. I personally choked back tears as my mind was suddenly whisked back to the memories of that horrible morning. Toward the end on the audio, a witness describes the scene of people jumping from the windows of the Twin Towers to their deaths. Then shortly thereafter, the dancers (who've been using these wooden benches during the entire performance) stand the benches on-end and then slowly knock them over, one by one. SLAM!...SLAM!...SLAM!...SLAM! While Joel Meyer’s character lies center stage, cringing and crying on the floor. To me, this seemed to symbolize the sounds of those bodies falling from the burning sky above.
In the final moments, what looks like a dead, soot and ash covered dove is placed on our comatose story teller’s chest. Perhaps this symbolizes the death of peace or how peace can rise from the ashes of tragedy? I can’t say for certain. But either way, the entire performance was very powerful, extremely moving and beautifully heartbreaking.
Thank you, Spectrum and Donald Byrd for providing this serious, thought-provoking evening. It was a night I will remember and cherish for a very long time.
Media Relations for Vala Dancewear/Class Act Tutu
All photos by Gabriel Bienczycki, Zebra Visual
Original post appears on the Vala Dancewear Blog.