Innernauts take a soaring journey of the heart

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Artistic collaboration. It can mean and lead to so many things.

When choreographer and dancer Maya Soto and musician, composer and visual artist Nico Tower first worked together, Soto asked Tower to create a 12-minute composition. Soto wanted an original score for GO Stop Falling, a 2014 piece for five dancers. It quickly became clear to both of the Seattle artists that they were interested in partnering again. “It was a magical experience,” says Tower.

From GO Stop Falling in spring 2014, Soto and Tower moved quickly onto developing ideas for a new co-production. Tower says, “We both love adventures a lot and love a good story.” Those ideas became Inner Galactic: An Odyssey of the Heart, their new evening-length work, which will have its premiere at Velocity Dance Center on Capitol Hill on Friday.

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Nico Tower, left, and Maya Soto Credit: Joseph Lambert

Soto describes Inner Galactic as an exploration of “all the ways that desire affects us.” It is a fantastical story of two astronauts/innernauts clad in spacesuits and travelling through a galaxy (far, far, away?) in a ship named Veruka. Additional ideas that form the core of the work were developed while the two women were on a three-day artistic retreat at Higher Ground Community in Bend, Oregon last year. Soto and Tower have also received additional support from various organizations and individuals locally, including Velocity, 10 degrees and Exit Space.

Inner Galactic is an immersive performance. Soto and Tower explained that it will begin with the audience moving through an art installation, setting the mood for space exploration. The show's program even includes a route map for the installation. Once the audience has taken its seats, Soto and Tower perform an hour-long duet, which includes music, movement, spoken word, visual design and video. In this adventurous show, outer space is a metaphor for the vast and complex inner workings of the heart.

In the new work, the innernauts have a difficult time finding their way: Throughout their journey, in fact, they’re lost. And yet, ironically, they are very comfortable – seemingly at home -- performing and operating in the traditional space of the other.

Musician Tower takes the floor and dances with Soto, and dancer Soto mans the sound with Tower. Soto says, “We made a purposeful decision to step into each other’s worlds and blur the boundaries.” This was not without its share of angst, though, in the rehearsal process. She says she would think to herself, “Don’t press the wrong button. Don’t make the machine ‘explode.’ ” However, now that she’s rehearsed the piece umpteen times, those fears are gone.

The innernauts’ portrayal of desire is very real. You feel their individual pain and the comfort they find in each other. These intrepid travelers are there for one another. At one point, Tower asks, “Maya, are you OK?” Then sings to her, “Without gravity what holds you to me?” while playing an acoustic guitar. Tower plays acoustic and electric guitar and performs vocals in the course of the performance.

Later Soto asks, “Nico, are we lost?” To which Tower responds, “Check your compass.” In return, Soto says, “I don’t know where the compass is.” Understanding desire is tough work with or without any tools.

Go along on the innernauts’ journey. The story that grew out of Soto and Tower's collaboration took me to unexpected places and surprised me. They might do the same for you.

If you go: Inner Galactic: An Odyssey of the Heart, Velocity Dance Center, 1621 12th Ave., Nov. 13-15, $18:  ticket info.


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About the Authors & Contributors

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Leslie Holleran

Leslie Holleran regularly writes about arts and culture for print and online publications. Her work has appeared in national dance publications and in Seattle newspapers and magazines. She comes to Crosscut following completion of UW's editing certificate program in summer 2015.