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SeattleDances: Byrd at the Frye

This is a preview of my review of The America That Is To Be for SeattleDances. Find the rest of the review here.


Visitors crowd along the walls of a gallery in the Frye Art Museum, sitting and standing around a raised platform stage in the center. They filter in from the other galleries of the exhibit The America That Is To Be, which contain performance clips, interviews, and costumes from the course of Donald Byrd’s 40-year career as an award-winning international choreographer. This retrospective showcases the complex political and social problems to which Byrd has responded through movement, highlighting the versatility of his use of multiple techniques and vocabularies to reflect the diversity of the country.


Performers: Leo Rose Reich, Nathanaël Santiago, Jaclyn Wheatley. © Marcia Davis.

[...It's] refreshing in a museum setting to be invited to sit down and watch a live performance all the way through. To be able to notice the details, to hear breath cues, to feel dancers’ energy and emotions, and to not necessarily have all the contextual information. I’m usually underwhelmed by displays of archival dance footage in museums—they’re just not as engaging as authentic objects. Dance is so personal, so physical, that nothing beats this kind of performance, which gathers visitors together and presents them with real dancers, up close, living, breathing, taking up the same space as the viewer. The subtle, lyrical complexity that Byrd weaves into these four dances would be lost, or at least harder to pick out, onscreen; in-person, live, onstage, they demand our attention, and I’m glad to give it.

Read the rest of the review here.

©2019 Johanna Berliner