A grand duo in Seattle’s Spectrum Dance Theater and Attacca Quartet
January 31, 2016
by Sarah L. Kaufman
For its Washington debut, Seattle’s Spectrum Dance Theater brought along a string quartet, treating the audience at Sidney Harman Hall on Saturday night to an uncommon luxury.
Then again, you can expect surprises of that sort from Spectrum’s artistic director, Donald Byrd.
Is there anything Byrd hasn’t delved into in his long and richly varied career? He earned a Tony nomination for his choreography in “The Color Purple.” He toured the world with an earlier troupe, Donald Byrd/The Group. His funky and poignant “Harlem Nutcracker” crisscrossed the country swinging to the Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite.” That production, from the mid-1990s, was terrific fun, and a spectacle; as I recall, in one number, the ladies balanced champagne glasses on their hips.
Saturday’s program, presented by Washington Performing Arts and CityDance, was titled “Rambunctious.” The New York-based Attacca Quartet joined Spectrum’s eight dancers onstage. Byrd’s wide-ranging appetite was evident in his choice of composers, including Charles Ives, Aaron Copland and Charles Wuorinen.
The evening’s highlight was Vincent Persichetti’s String Quartet No. 2, Op. 24, which accompanied Byrd’s work for four dancers, “I from myself am banish’d.” The line comes from Christopher Marlowe’s 16th-century history play “Edward II,” describing an emotional farewell between the king and his dear friend and lover. Byrd’s other dances were abstract, but this one was about human connection and separation. It had a beating heart. You rooted for this foursome as they locked arms around one another like best friends against the world, or knelt to support one who stood alone.
Persichetti’s music was deep-toned and searching. Reflecting its unsettled quality, the dancers engaged in some well-crafted struggles; at times, one of them would tumble — gently and in slow motion — and the others would be knocked sideways a bit, rattled. They’d step over their colleague with care. And they’d dance on, making the best of it. Life is like that.
Original story can be found here