LEWISTON — Kate Weare’s dances live in a crazily graceful alternate universe, where bodies have the same parts and proportions as ours but their inhabitants have found different ways of articulating them.

Her dancers are exquisitely trained, with the ability – necessary for performing Weare’s choreography – of passing from complicated floor work to elevated poses so smoothly that the segues become invisible.

Their lithe strength is such that a dancer can be held by others horizontally like a plank with little visible means of support, and then suddenly move on to a totally different sequence, without a sign that a superhuman feat has just been performed.

Friday’s performance at the Bates Dance Festival was the first of two this weekend in Kate Weare Company’s third visit to the festival since the company’s inception a decade ago.

Internationally recognized as a groundbreaking choreographer, Weare has received awards including Guggenheim and Princess Grace fellowships, she has taught at such venues as Princeton University and Juilliard and her choreography has been commissioned by companies throughout the world.

The main event of this year’s Bates program was “Marksman,” a new piece co-commissioned by The Joyce Theater and American Dance Festival, and only performed once before, earlier this summer.


The dance was inspired by Weare’s fascination with “Zen in the Art of Archery,” by Eugen Herrigel. As Weare explains in her choreographer’s statement, “The book articulates the most beautiful concept of forming while being formed, playing while being played, aiming while being aimed.”

In front of a Zen-inspired backdrop of waves atop giant dark panels, and wearing Asian-style costumes of wide capri trousers and flowing white shirts, the dancers of “Marksman” demonstrate the interweaving of actor and acted-upon suggested by Herrigel’s philosophical work.

Dancers interact constantly, repeatedly inspired by or recoiling from a touch or gesture and sometimes moving like puppets on strings. Their roles are fluid, not assigned, so that in one moment one dancer is causing the movement of another, but in the next movement that dancer could be the one receiving the impact.

The choreography also includes thematic repetition of a triangular shape made by dancers’ arms, like a bow, and single arms purposefully outstretched like arrows being aimed.

Weare’s background in and affection for martial arts show up in this piece, as in others, with more or less subtle evocations in movement, tone and costuming. Dancers often spar or kick, while at other times they appear lost in individually meditative bodily convolutions.

There is constant, supersaturated motion, and occasions of unison among partners or the ensemble are so infrequent that the unrelenting counterpoint is virtually untraceable. Even the costumes seem part of the choreography, with flowing shirttails continuing a movement after the body has moved on to the next.


Whatever its intent, the effect of “Marksman” is abnormal, in a fascinating way. It’s like a post-apocalyptic world in which, with our cherished technology and customs stripped, people move in a neo-primitive society of intimacy and aggression that is familiarly human, yet foreign and somehow more modern than ours.

In simple clothing that simultaneously glows and looks ragged, dancers’ elegant, often-disjointed movement brings out repeatedly unexpected shapes, in a subtle, chronic divergence from the norm.

Feet are neither flexed nor pointed, legs and ankles are turned neither in nor out, legs are raised in ways that suggest slightly different hip construction.

The music, an original score by Curtis Robert Macdonald, is similarly earthy while otherworldly. It’s as if our musical instruments and the urge to create with them existed while our theory and written works did not, leaving musicians to reinvent from a different perspective and sensibility.

Integral to the score is a signature instrument for this company: the dancers’ breath. Panting and the rhythmic deep inhaling and exhaling of controlled breathing punctuate spaces of silence throughout Weare’s work.

Kate Weare Company stands as an example of what the Bates Dance Festival is all about: a cutting-edge choreographer and a troupe of breathtaking artist-athletes offering both the festival’s student dancers and its audiences a taste of something new.

Jennifer Brewer is a Portland-based freelance writer.

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