Choreographer Olivier Wevers doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects. Since founding his contemporary dance troupe Whim W’Him in 2009, Wevers has created works that address violence against gays, drug abuse, domestic abuse and capital punishment.
Now, inspired by the rash of shootings that have occurred in recent years – Newtown, Aurora, Tucson and so many others – Wevers is taking on gun violence from a decidedly personal point of view.
“I am very upset about violence and this gives me a chance to channel my emotions into something that’s my own,” he explains. “But I don’t want to make a statement. I want to foster conversation.”
To that end, Wevers has created “Instantly Bound,” a largely abstract 20-minute ballet for three couples, initially choreographed for Philadelphia’s BalletX last year. Restaged for Whim W’Him, the piece includes an added section that reinforces the unpredictability of gun violence.
“I’m playing with the randomness of violence," Wevers says, "and the new section adds a feeling of impending doom where no one knows what’s going on.”
Though it has loose narrative structure, there is no clear through line to “Instantly Bound”. Viewers may or may not understand the imagery's meaning — at least at the beginning.
Dancers Lara Seedfeldt and Jim Kent rehearse for "Instantly Bound." Photo: BambergFineArt.com
To open the show, Wevers uses a lot of frenetic running around to convey generalized panic. The rest of the work is similarly oblique, at least until its conclusion: a male-female duet in which someone — it’s not clear who — gets shot.
Despite the obvious political implications, Wevers says he isn't trying to take a stand that way. “Hopefully there are emotions that people can relate to, but I hope they’ll also find some of their own feelings,” he says. “I’m not expecting people to be changed, although it might make them aware that we should do something.”
The work isn’t entirely bleak. In addition to a pair of lighter works that will round out Whim W'Him's performance, Wevers will showcase interactive visual art in the Cornish Playhouse lobby (including the acclaimed "Erase" from Boston's Greg Bokor).
And he takes an optimistic tone with his subject. Even the most horrific violence, he says, has the capacity to unite individuals and communities. The dynamism of his dancers' physical connections reflects this.
“These incidents bind us together,” he says, “and make us all think about our mortality. I wanted to capture that — not just the sadness, but also the way that people create something together after an incident.”
If you go: Whim W’Him’s “Instantly Bound,” 8 pm, January 17-18, 7 pm January 19, Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center. Tickets $25.