By Juli Goetz Morser
For Vashon Center for the Arts
In January 2020, the award-winning Seattle-based contemporary dance company, Whim W’Him, gave its last pre-pandemic stage performance.
The piece, “Of Then and Now,” hinted at watershed events to come. With the mandated shutdowns that weeks later, the dancers left the stage for outdoor venues, film and online platforms. That was then. Now, the company will mount its first live stage performance in more than a year at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 15, at Vashon Center for the Arts (VCA).
“The dancers are so excited,” said Olivier Wevers, founder and artistic director of the company. “They miss live performance. Unlike film, you don’t stop a show for a close-up. With a full performance, they dance 20 to 30 minutes at a time, and they are excited to push themselves in that way again. They miss that marathon of dancing live.”
At VCA, the dancers will present three world premieres by choreographers FLOCK, Joseph Hernandez and Whim W’Him company member, Karl Watson, plus Wevers’ award-winning “MONSTER” and Ihsan Rustem’s “Of Then and Now.”
FLOCK and Hernandez first choreographed their pieces to be filmed last year. After discussing the upcoming show with VCA Executive Director Allison Reid, Wevers realized those same pieces should be brought to the stage.
“It was important to me for our first performance back on stage to show something specifically created for film, then adapted to the stage — the reverse process of the past year when we went from stage to film,” he said.
Wevers recalled that on March 13, 2020, the company was rehearsing on stage at VCA when they decided to quarantine and figure out how to fulfill their mission to be creative during the pandemic. Wevers told his board that the organization needed to reach its community in different ways.
“It was a challenge,” he said, “but we are a creative organization, and being an artist is being a problem solver.”
The company formed their own pod — isolating together for 10 weeks, learning how to dance for film and navigating the digital world. They also held outdoor pop-up shows — around Seattle and at The Mukai Farm & Garden on Vashon — which Wevers knew would benefit both the dancers and their audience.
“Dancers are physical beings, and it was stressful not being able to move,” he said. “The pop-ups gave them that opportunity.”
Wevers said the company also likes to share its work with Vashon audiences.
“The dancers all love being on the island, and are thrilled and grateful to come back,” he said.
That gratitude will be expressed when the company holds a free show for the island’s frontline workers as a “gift to them,” plus a special performance and Q&A for Vashon Center for Dance students, in addition to the public performance slated for Saturday evening.
Tickets for Whim W’him’s public show at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 15 are $45 general, $25 student, and must be purchased 24 hours in advance. That show will also be live-streamed on VCA’s website and Facebook page, with a $10 suggested donation. The free show for frontline workers will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 16 — sign up at vashoncenterforthearts.org.
COVID protocols include limited capacity seating and masks for audience members. Find out more at vashoncenterforthearts.org.