Artist Dons a Sea Cucumber Costume for 'Manifesto'

A local performance artist finds inspiration at the aquarium

Women who choose not to have children often channel their creative power into making other things—things such as a life-size sea cucumber costume.

At least that’s the route Ilvs Strauss (pronounced “Elvis”) chose to go, using a sleeping bag as the basis for the California red sea cucumber outfit she dons in her funny and poignant piece, Manifesto. The petite Seattle performance artist, 36, who volunteers at the Seattle Aquarium, was inspired by watching the slug-like echinoderm and learning that “it’s the only animal whose output is cleaner than the intake.” (Sea cucumbers are like undersea recycling stations.) It got her thinking about “what I put out into the world, and what that looks like in view of me not wanting kids.”

In the piece, she artfully combines a witty personal monologue about childbearing and womanhood with gestural dance, perfectly timed facial expressions, two costume changes and, newly added since a work-in-progress showing at On the Boards last June, backup dancers. Also up for examination: loneliness, relationships and the pearl fish, which lives inside the anal cavity of tropical sea cucumbers. 5/22–5/24. Times and prices vary. Velocity Dance Center, 1621 12th Ave.; 206.325.8773; 


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