Hidden away among active industrial warehouses, Equinox Studios and the area immediately surrounding them (“Equiblox”?) offer a big variety of arts, plus a taproom, in an environment that provides an apt, creative backdrop for exploring new art forms. This Sunday & Monday, ’12 Minutes Max’ (formerly at On the Boards) is a great excuse to head there.
A half-mile over from the Newly Popular Georgetown (the one with the Fran’s Chocolates and Ellenos Greek Yogurt, with a million old-style bars and art galleries interspersed around the Trailer Park Mall that serves as a de facto hub) is the Still-Hidden Georgetown, the one past Tacoma Screw and Harbor Freight, by the I Luv Teriyaki place.
Still surrounded mostly by working industrial buildings and among unmarked/questionable parking spots, here you won’t find much for taverns beyond the taproom of Counterbalance Brewery. In this part of Georgetown, it feels much more “in the know” — like when you see a crawl headed somewhere, it’s a party only the few of you know about. And where you all are headed is likely over to the maze of studios in the Equinox Arts complex, host to two relatively new dance spaces: Base and Yaw.
This article, part of a multi-part feature, focuses on Base and the upcoming episode of 12 Minutes Max, held March 17-18.
(And keep a lookout later for the next installment, on Yaw Theatre, which has already hosted some fantastic dance performances and works in progress. In April and May, Yaw will bring in some short plays and dance performances centered around the theme of immigration.)
“Base: Experimental Arts + Space” is a big, flexible rehearsal space that also hosts performances by traveling and local artists. All of the performances are short runs, usually two nights, of primarily modern dance infused with performance art vibes. Some of those are developed in-house and with resident artists, and others are brought in as rentals. It was founded by Dayna Hanson, Peggy Piacenza and Dave Proscia, and opened in 2016.
The closest comparison I can offer is it’s a grittier, edgier version of On the Boards, owing in part to its decidedly industrial surroundings.
There’s some overlap between the two organizations. Recent members of Base’s in-residence artist cohorts, including Frank Boyd, Ilvs Strauss, and Markieth Wiley, were developing and rehearsing pieces headed for On the Boards, or have put up work there on an ongoing basis. (The latter category includes Wiley, who is part of On the Boards’ inaugural cohort of Artists in Residence this season.)
Like at On the Boards, performances vary widely at Base. For the most part, I’ve seen compelling work there.
In a show last year called Still Wonder Full, choreographer/dancer Britt Karhoff brought a meditation on things falling apart (as an actual table fell apart under her, that she struggled — sometimes humorously, always shudder-inspiringly — to keep aloft, before capitulating and letting it all collapse); battling with depression and grief while doing what needed to be done (hauling heavy/awkward materials around the room and forcing them into place); and contending with unwelcome gestures from loved ones to invade and pull the sufferer out of it — all told with both physicality and humor, along with giant paper flowers. Base’s stage is wide, and Karhoff’s solo command of it was stunning; a flexibility and power that shouldn’t have been surprising given Karhoff’s experience with Bandaloop (a group known for dancing on the sides of buildings), but also an intensity of emotion that felt both relatable and personal. I later learned that Karhoff’s piece came from specific grief: that following a medically necessitated abortion. (Read more about the show’s development here.)
Base aims to present innovative, dynamic movement-driven works like Karhoff’s, and focuses on, as it describes it, “elevating risk and invention in dance, performance and multidisciplinary art.”
Into that landscape arrived BLEED! later that same month, which brought together three artists — performance art/comedy cult legend Queen Shmooquan, experimental performer Alisa Popova, and performer/visual artist Patrick Clark. Clark was an immediate-past performer, having shown at Base just the previous month in the recurring showcase, 12 Minutes Max. There, his piece was something of a music/comedy/performance mashup involving a distractible saxophonist unrolling his insecurities all over the floor. It was both strange and beautiful — perfect for that series.
Overall, it appears Base aspires to be a home base for artists in a time that performance space is particularly hard to find in Seattle, along with a platform for artists to show and audiences to see new, exciting work. A most welcome addition.
’12 MINUTES MAX’
The original 12 Minutes Max series, held at On the Boards in Lower Queen Anne, was about the first encounter I had with modern dance, in the early-2000s. The series has long been a favorite of mine. It’s fun in part because of the variety, and in part because both the commitment and the bar to entry are so low. If you hate something, you won’t have to sit through it very long. And there’s usually a lot more to love than hate.
The showcase continues due to a partnership between Base and On the Boards that allowed Base to revive the long-running, sadly discontinued series. That partnership is a good fit. The shows Base hosts tend toward a more in-development or experimental edge, but in decidedly the same family as those at On the Boards, and the original 12 Minutes Max always had that feel about it.
Disappointingly, the first couple of episodes of 12 Minutes Max at Base were overwhelmingly White and also felt stylistically homogeneous, bordering on dull.
That changed with a round held last May, which Florangela Davila and Tyisha Nedd curated. The curators and organization clearly put thought and effort into amassing, first, a high-quality body of developing works; but just as importantly, a diversity of creators, performers, and artistic forms; and those felt more interactive, relevant, and widely accessible as well. In Davila and Nedd’s lineup, the eight pieces they selected were: a giant film projection by barry johnson with live dance from Randy Ford, who has appeared all over town recently, including in Dani Tirrell’s Black Bois at On the Boards; dance and performance pieces by Mother Tongue, Alia Swersky, Ariel Burke & Jessica Jobaris, Lavinia Vago, Alaji & Elijah, and Fernando Luna; and the aforementioned Patrick Clark. And, a rarity for such variety shows: all of them were really good. If Base can carry forward the high bar those two set for the series, I’ll be a happy viewer.
The showcase is a fun foray into what’s happening in the worlds of dance and performance art, and at $12 the price can’t be beat. Plus, parking is free and the cans of Rainier are cheap.
The 12 Minutes Max series returns with another episode this Sunday and Monday nights (March 17-18), this one curated by performance artist Hendri Walujo and theatre artist Keiralea McDonald (who recently directed Alien/Angel at Cafe Nordo).
Per Walujo, the eight acts’ commonalities arise from their focus on dualities: “Each piece seems to question/challenge two forces coming together/pulling apart, or battling inside one’s being. Attraction/Repulsion, Love/Grief, Joy/Rage, Femininity/Strength, Surface/Inner personas, Man/Woman in suspension, even two fans blowing at each other.”
From the concept of “Two/Duality,” the curators worked the concept into the evening’s structure as well, creating, as Walujo described it, “two halves that somewhat mirror each other. The eternally perpetual struggle of these opposing yet complementary forces is a real balancing act, like the dual wings of a bird.”
The lineup looks promising, and is varied in media and background:
Danica Bito (Seattle/New York, dancer): solo work melds her dance background with improvisation, spoken word and her training in martial arts. Bito will present “Why Did You Stop?,” the dichotomy between joy in the self and rage at the world.
Moises J. Himmelfarb (Seattle/international, visual & performing arts): works in dance, painting, installation art, theatre, contemporary dance, performance art, novella, poetry, and nonfiction cultural critique. Himmelfarb presents “The place where I go,” a glimpse inside a 12-year-old work in progress of creative output born in periods of major personal change (location, employment, love); themes include sex, memory, identity, and current events (private and public).
Katie Fox (dance educator): provides forum for youth to create their own works, and attempts to create work that spurs conversation on cause and effect in relationships and roles. Fox will present “Stage One,” a catharsis for the partner of a person with mental illness, probing how one must learn to match and counter the ebbs and flows as well as the steps one must take to preserve oneself when love and illness face each other.
Austin Larkin (Seattle, composer): focusing on in/audible forms and substances, using violin as a primary means for research and performance. Larkin presents an installation piece involving VHS tape and electric fans.
Katiana Rangel (Brazil, theatre/dance): founder of theater and performance group Untitled 29, Les Ballets Nomades, and now focusing on work derived from Sarah Kane’s Blasted. In “Suspended,” a woman hangs herself up using her own clothes to a horizontal bar, at approximately 3.3 feet from the ground.
Juliet McMains & Erica Valkren (Seattle, dancer): social dance, especially tango and salsa; and partner dance. McMains & Valkren will present a variation of tango dancing, which asks: If tango is defined by the strength of this force of attraction that sustains its iconic embrace, what happens when the poles of attraction are reversed and the tango embrace becomes a point of repulsion rather than attraction?
Beth Terwilleger (Seattle, choreographer): choreographic passions lie in the creation of emotional storytelling pieces and in-depth character development, with a focus on connecting and speaking with the audience. Terwilleger presents “The Princess + Giselle,” two solos from a larger work in progress that revisits the complicated relationship between pop culture and queer culture: how pop culture can set oppressive standards, stereotypes, and stigmas onto queerness.
Rachel Winchester (Tacoma, choreographer): utilizes her research in dramaturgy and gender studies to explore deeply human characters; as an artist, she is interested in psychological and social phenomena and creating platforms for storytelling. Winchester presents “Me, Three,” which asserts there is often a third persona in instances within the spectrum of one-on-one sexual harassment and harmful gender stereotyping toward women, in which this “face” dictates how a woman reacts in the moment toward an unwanted aggression or judgment.
12 Minutes Max runs 3/17 & 3/18 at Base in Georgetown, at 6520 5th Ave. Tickets are $12, available here. Accessibility notes: bathrooms are gendered and multi-stall;back door provides minimal-stairs route for reduced mobility access, but theatre is difficult to navigate by wheelchair due to uneven surfaces throughout the complex.
Upcoming at Base:
The Nine Lives – 3/29 thru 3/31
Admission by donation; info here.
Jo Blake, Cameo Lethem and Beth Terwilleger present an evening featuring three works focusing on the theme of science fiction and the works of Ursula K. LeGuin. Each with their own unique take on the subject, the evening will be filled with abstraction, immersion, narration and a deep look into the possibilities of what the future can hold.
12 Minutes Max – 6/2 & 6/3
Curators and performers for the next installment will be determined at a later date; auditions scheduled for May 5.
Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of NWTheatre.org.