Seattle Cleans Up the Princess Grace Choreo Awards

As someone who spent quite a while engaged with the world of Seattle’s performing arts, I’m always excited to see it–and particularly the dance scene–get the recognition it deserves. That happened in a fairly big way Monday, when the Princess Grace Foundation awarded both of its choreography awards to Seattle choreographers (PDF): one to Zoe Scofield, and the other to Olivier Wevers. As I understand it, a Seattle artist had never won that award previously, so for both to go to Seattle artists the same year is saying something.

Wevers has been the golden boy of Seattle dance since his days as a principal at PNB, but his star has really taken off since the launch of his own contemporary-inflected company in January of last year, when the charming and crowd-pleasing 3Seasons won accolades (you can see my review at the time here; for Wevers’ later work, my former editor has written a particularly fine piece). Since then, Wevers has continued winning attention, and Whim W’Him seems to be trying to replicate in Seattle the popular embrace Trey McIntyre enjoys in Boise, Idaho. The company is supported by a small but intense fan-based who’ve dubbed themselves (or, equally likely, been dubbed by overly fawning press) “Whimmers.”

Photo by Ty Cheng.

Comprised of dancers from both PNB and Donald Byrd’s modern Spectrum Dance Theater, Whim W’Him is a decidedly athletic and sexy company (albeit occasionally Party Monster-esque, for some reason). Wevers has decidedly moved away from classical ballet as a choreographer, but his work remains rooted in academic movement, which goes no small way to explaining its popularity and accessibility.

Still, for my money, Zoe Scofield is the more impressive choice. Her work–in collaboration with her husband, visual artist Juniper Shuey–is as complex and cerebral as Wevers’ is charming and accessible, and while Wevers’ vocabulary remains comfortably within tradition, Scofield–who, as a dancer, moves like virtually no one else–has gone a long way towards creating her own distinct dance vernacular, wedded in a physical deconstruction of classical movement. Her most recent piece, A Crack in Everything, recently played to strong reviews at Jacob’s Pillow, and I’ll be catching it in September at the TBA Festival in Portland. Next year, it plays New York Live Arts (formerly DTW) in April.

But both are definitely deserving of praise, and in fact, the differences between the two speak to health and diversity of Seattle dance. Congrats all around!

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