UW News

October 9, 2017

Dance meets social justice in Chamber Dance Company’s ‘The Body Politic’ Oct. 12 – 15

UW News

Barbi Powers in the dance "Pastime" by Lucinda Childs. Part of the UW Chamber Dance Company's concert, titled "The Body Politic."

Barbi Powers in the dance “Pastime” by Lucinda Childs, part of the UW Chamber Dance Company’s concert, “The Body Politic.”Steve Korn

Lights up: Dancer Alexandra Bradshaw-Yerby takes the stage with a fierce stare — wary, maybe desperate, as background city noises blare. She suffers loss, even disability as she navigates a fraught urban world with guarded, shuffling, angular movements. And, those eyes.

This dance, called “Tenant of the Street,” depicts modern homelessness, but is in fact almost 80 years old. Some things don’t change. It’s by choreographer Eve Gentry, and was first produced in 1938.

It is one of eight pieces in “The Body Politic,” the 2017 concert by the University of Washington Department of Dance’s Chamber Dance Company, to be performed at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 12 to 14, and at 2 p.m. Oct. 15 at Meany Theater.

The Chamber Dance Company, or CDC for short, is known for reviving and archiving significant works from the modern dance canon. Now in its 27th year under the guidance of founding artistic director Hannah Wiley, the CDC has become one of Seattle’s most respected dance companies.

“The Body Politic” is an homage to status quo-defying choreographers who used dance to discuss social injustice and gender, economic and racial prejudice. In addition to Gentry’s dark meditation on street life, the company will perform pieces by choreographers Isadora Duncan, Lucinda Childs, Jane Dudley, Susan Marshall, Crystal Pite, Helen Tamiris and Kate Weare.

“Several of the dances in this year’s repertoire are portraits of people marginalized by society,” said Wiley, a longtime UW professor of dance. “Through movement vocabulary, posture, music and acting the dancer provides an intensified lens for observing their situation.”

Personal relationships are here, too, such as in “Arms,” a 1984 duet by Marshall danced precisely and passionately by Lucie Baker and Brandin Steffensen. A man and woman entangle and separate, fall toward and away, reject with impatient shrugs then curl into symbiotic embrace — apart and together again — a difficult relationship; we’ve been there.

In addition to Bradshaw-Yerby, Baker and Steffensen, other company dancers are Alethea Alexander, Adele Nickel and Barbi Powers. All the dancers in the company are pursuing MFA degrees after completing at least eight years of a professional performance career, and most have danced with nationally and internationally acclaimed dance groups. Their biographies can be viewed online.

And so if you were to ask how dance can comment on social issues such as injustice, inequality and prejudice, this would be an answer — even though it might sometimes be more comfortable to look away.

“These portraits evoke our sympathy and magnify the injustices,” said Wiley. “They re-set our moral compass with compassion.”

Tickets to “The Body Politic” are $10 to $22, available through the ArtsUW Ticket Office, 1313 NE 41st Street or 206-543-4880, or online.


For more information about the Chamber Dance Company, contact Wiley at 206-543-7536 or hcw@uw.edu. To learn more about the Department of Dance, email uwdance@uw.edu.