Music creeps slowly into a dream world washed in blue and red light, lingering like a fog, melting me deeper into my seat at The Moore Theatre. Suddenly I feel part of some ritual, deep in a moonlit wood, chilled and waiting for a branch to snap or a wolf to howl.
Far below my perch in the second balcony, on a stage adorned in silk and velvet, The Sun Still Burns Here begins to take shape. The world premiere of this contemporary dance and music performance by choreographer Kate Wallich and pop-synth recording artist Mike Hadreas—better known as Perfume Genius—oozes with a young royal’s aesthetic. The set design blends Elizabethan décor with angsty teen bedroom chaos: artistic and a little sad, yet achingly beautiful. As music further fills the space during this preview performance, something nocturnal starts to bud and blooms throughout the emotional chapters of the show; a sort of sensual bedroom experience full of darkly lit memories.
The Sun Still Burns Here is co-created and directed by Seattle-based choreographer Wallich, co-founder of research based dance company The YC, and Hadreas, a Los Angeles-based musician and classically trained pianist who hails from Tacoma. “This was an intensely collaborative process—artistically, physically, emotionally,” Wallich says over email, speaking on behalf of both collaborators. “So much trust had to be built.” The show premieres October 4 and 5 at The Moore (8 p.m. Prices vary. Downtown), before continuing tour at The Joyce Theatre in NYC, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, which will be co-presented by The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music series.
As Sun continues, hazy piano tunes evaporate into the space and ricochet off the walls of The Moore, accompanied by soft, yet stern lyrics that gently glide the audience into what feels like a large-scale hypnosis session. “Spit in a glove/ Show it to me/ Bleach on a berry/ Honey the tear in your eye/ Give it up.” The original music, which will become an eventual live album from Perfume Genius, includes “Eye in the Wall,” a captivating, euphoric nine-minute song that hovers in the air for the audience to indulge. While the music echoes, fervent dance numbers spark energy into the room and the theater becomes an extension of the stage happenings, carnal movements and sounds blending romanticism with anguish.
Thick ceiling-length ribbons of cloth in varied shades of blush pink and burnt orange catch the wind as Wallich, Hadreas, Perfume Genius band member Alan Wyffels and four YC dancers glide through them; eventually they pull out and float to the floor. Dancers fluctuate between solo numbers with fluid arm movements, slow, precise steps and magnetic group-huddled numbers. The dancers’ flux from isolated areas to these bubble-like formations, alternating between the gentle brushing of hands and unabashedly passionate, full-body embraces that eventually lead to climatic bursts where the group detaches and scatters like popcorn—as if the heat became too much to contain.
In the show’s penultimate number, Wallich and Hadreas nestle together under a spotlight, holding each other close. Their heads lay on each other’s chests, arms linked, weaseling into the nooks of each other’s bodies and writhing about the floor. Finally, with Wallich atop Hadreas’ back, she clutches onto him while he raises and lowers his body, both vibrating until they attempt to separate, but can’t bring themselves to let go.
The electricity eventually burns into exhaustion, as if cathartic collapse was inevitable. As the piece concludes, the full cast gathers around a grand piano as Hadreas sings a soulful ballad while the lighting dims. “We basically put everything into a spiritual pot and mixed until it felt right,” Wallich says. “We are transcending the physical and the familiar. And we hope our audiences can, too.” This performance from some of Seattle’s best artistic coteries, promises to give viewers a unique experience that is unapologetically vulnerable, visceral and shamelessly rebellious.