Jim Kent and Tory Peil crouch, huddled together, about to start a run-through of Whim W’Him artistic directorOlivier Wevers’s new Catch and Release, set to open on January 20, 2017 at the Cornish Playhouse in Seattle Center, as a part of the tripartite SENSATION program that runs through January 28.

“What’s happened just before?” asks Jim. From the sidelines Justin Reiter promptly answers, “You’re a broken pot, broken again, and she’s the light”—the gold that mends and refashions shattered porcelain in the arresting kintsugi image that runs through the piece.


What a pleasure it is to be back in the studio after almost six months away on the opposite side of the country. Being there, watching it in progress, reignited my fascination with the particulars of how dance is made, the interactions of the dancers with the choreographer and each other, of their personalities with the material, and the expressions from moment-to-moment on their faces. Reports from dancers and glosses by choreographers, still photos and videos, all transmit useful information, but there’s no substitute for observing in person the subtle and intricate physical logistics of dance creation unfold.


Olivier has very clear ideas in mind for the look of each piece, each section, each movement, each contact. “The quality I’m looking for is long sickle-pickle

[foot pointed but turned in]. The heavy fingers, the heavy weight,” he says, earlier in the rehearsal. “So it doesn’t become habitual, so you’re still searching for more.” There is always that quest for more. At another point, he remarks, “Yes, good, that’s the image—otherwise it’s just movement.”


Working on a long duet of Tory and Karl, the two dancers discuss how to get around each other at a particular juncture, the small shifts in timing and in degree of weight and momentum. They make an interesting pair on the dance floor, Karl and Tory. In appearance, both conform to a tall and relatively big-boned, light-haired, earnest, decent, middle-American-seeming “type.” Yet their performance defies stereotypes, as their dancing relationship evolves and they add sophisticated layers of meaning about the complexity and distortions of life—just what this piece is about: the necessarily fractured nature of people and relationships, how they break, and the transformations that take place in the process of putting the pieces back together again.


In the women’s trio, Olivier suggests that Mia Monteabaro “make it heavy and long,” as she comes toward Liane Aung, “not getting there so fast. You have to kind of cheat your spacing, running so you can come toward her straight and not at an angle.” A bit later—at the moment when Tory, who is twitching and jerking, ensnared in the web of the others’ hands and bodies, is to break away from the other two—he tells her, “keep your face going forward. Try not to fight their hands, just your face going forward.” The whole movement is simplified and clarified, its trajectory clear.


When, toward the end of Catch and Release, the music switches out of Brian Lawlor’s layered, allusive, and inventive original score to Ray Charles’s I Can’t Stop Loving You, it’s a surprise, the abrupt change of music and the different  pace. The interlude is poignant, tender and kind of humorous. As at other moments in the rehearsal, Olivier exhorts his dancers, “Don’t rush the connections.” He always emphasizes how there is plenty of space for developing and filling in. “It will be different in every show.” Efficiency of getting from here to there is hardly the point…


And at the end of the run-through, always alert to what more there is to be found, he remarks, “That was a really good run. I love the intention and intensity. We’ll keep working and develop it. It can be so much richer.”



Photo credit: Bamberg Fine Art Photography