Short-form work is an easy way to test out different art forms. It’s experimental. It’s approachable. And there’s usually something for everyone.
For me that’s especially true of dance and performance art, about which I generally know two things: I’m not going to like everything, and I’m not going to understand everything, either. In those art forms, shortness tends to heighten the work’s intellectual and artistic accessibility in two ways. On the downside: if I don’t get it, or don’t like it, I don’t have to suffer through an hour of it. And on the positive: it’s often exciting, and exposes me to new art forms or new ways of seeing them. It’s those unique positive notes that draw me so strongly to multi-artist festivals of short dance works across the spectrum, from just-starting-out experimenters to established artists experimenting with other forms or testing new work.
Happily, Seattle is bustling with festivals of short new work in performance art and dance. Here are a few coming up soon.
Ovations is NWT’s new occasional series on happy trends and happenings in performance.
Showing Out @ Langston Hughes PAI, thru tonight (11/23)
Showing Out: Contemporary Black Choreographers is a two-part festival curated by Dani Tirrell with the Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas. In Part I, featured artists Saira Barbaric, Markeith Wiley, Keelan Johnson, Michael O’Neal Jr., Brian J. Evans, Kyle Bernbach & Gilbert Small, and Neve Kamilah Mazique-Bianco show off brand new work.
In Part II (held in January 2020), those choreographers return with modifications to their works.
Tickets are $20, available here.
12 Minutes Max @ Base Art Space, this Sunday-Monday (11/24-25)
The experimental performance series 12 Minutes Max is an institution. Hatched almost 40 years ago (!!) at On the Boards, it was reincarnated at Base, a dance-centric performance space founded in 2016 in Georgetown’s block-long industrial arts complex called Equinox Studios.
Each installment includes a different duo of curators and around nine new works (or pieces of longer works). As you might guess from the title, each performance can’t run longer than 12 minutes. In practice, it’s a vibrant testing ground for new works in front of an adventurous audience, the members of which tend to see a lot of these things. Performers and styles vary a lot based on the curator.
This installment’s curators are barry johnson and Fox Whitney. It includes work by Leanna Keith (Monday only), Sheri Cohen, Minna Lee, Lesbian Death Bed, Wryly McCutchen, Margaret Johnson, Isabella Sauve-Collins, Amy Augustine & Mark Boeker, and the SLOWBURN Dance Company.
Tickets are $12, available here. (Note that Sunday night’s show is already sold out.)
Performance Lab @ On the Boards, December 11
This multi-genre series brings a different artist each quarter to co-curate a one-night lineup of experimental short works with On the Boards’ Charles Smith (who curates the long-running NW New Works series). Each installment includes facilitated artist feedback along with an opportunity for each artist to discuss their performance with the audience.
The December show, called Uncanny Cabaret, is co-curated with drag artist Matt Aguayo (Angel Baby Kill Kill Kill), and features artists Lesbian Death Bed, Positively Positive, Stasia Coup, L’Von & Charmaine, and Sam I’Am.
Next Fest @ Velocity Dance Center, December 12-15
An annual festival showing works from emerging artists around a specific theme, Velocity’s Next Fest will focus this year on Ritual and Rebellion, curated by Nia-Amina Minor and Fausto Rivera (Spectrum Dance Theater company members) and Cameo Lethem (a James Ray fellow). It features new works from Lucie Baker, Shane Donohue, Marco Farroni, Vladimir Kremenović, and Hannah Rae, on subjects that include Brutalist architecture, corporate sponsorship, queer coming-of-age stories, and Slavic mythology.
With this year’s festival, the curators sought to help cultivate projects and artists beyond the performance dates. The theme was selected in service to that goal, inviting artists to enter with authentic questions and ideas that feel urgent for them today, rather than contorting their projects to a specific topic. The resulting works are wide-ranging in style and content, but all wrestle with the integration of the past into the future, and a reckoning with what it means to belong to a collective or community.
Tickets are $15-$20, available here.
Sh*t Gold @ Velocity Dance Center, ongoing
This series is much less formal, so who knows what you’re going to get. Every first & third Monday, Velocity invites people to have a drink (the bar is available), have a snack (bring something to share if you want), and watch short performances in an open-mic style. Performance slots are five minutes, and all genres welcome. Sign-up at 7:30, performances start at 8.
And then, twice a year, performance slots expand to 20 minutes in the “marathon” Sh*t Gold: Deep End edition.
Admission is free; info is here.
Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of NWTheatre.org.