Whim W'him and the Third Degree

By Christopher Heide

Olivier Wevers has once again proven to be a creative savant, most recently showcased in Whim W’Him’s beautifully evocative Third Degree. Transcending the limitations of classical ballet, Wevers, the Artistic Director, successfully manages to combine haunting advanced technique and contemporary, edgy themes. Third Degree, which is composed of four mini-ballets, is yet another outstanding triumph in Whim W’Him’s lengthy repertoire of iconic performances.

While all of Wevers’ dancers are engaging, skilled and impressive, PNB dancer, Andrew Bartee, is a bone fide star. In his dual role as choreographer and performer, Bartee is given the opportunity to shine. As a performer, Bartee seems to have mastered both the nuances of physical technique and emotional expression. The mastery of his craft is cultivated n the Vivaldi scored “L’Efflure”. Choreographed by Whim W’Him favorite, Annabelle Lopez Ochia, “L’Efflure” is breathtaking, stark and intoxicatingly mesmerizing. Dancing under a single spotlight, Bartee’s performance is controlled, fluid, vulnerable and imperious.

Wevers rightly has tremendous faith in Bartee’s artistic capabilities; his work as a choreographer is showcased in “This Is Real”. As with many stalwart Whim W’Him creations, Bartee mixes gritty partnering, inventive technique, a pulsing score and modern technology to effectively weave a relatable, yet controversial tale. “This is Real” encapsulates the toxic urgency of a dysfunctional friendship and social unease. In his lengthy tenure with Whim W’Him, Bartee has transformed into a magnanimous vanguard.

Third Degree’s most compelling narrative comes directly from the intimacy of Wevers’ own mind, entitled “I Don’t Remember A Spark”. The thesis of this award-worthy creation is a broad as it is bravely personal; what drives Olivier Wevers’ choreography? A series of conversations with a Seattle based journalist- on life, the creative process, insecurities, wishes, pet peeves and artistic passions- set in motion Wevers’ most personal work yet.

“I Don’t Remember A Spark” is definitely one of my most personal and experimental works. I have worked closely with Brian Lawlor to create an original score that opens a window into my constantly shouting brain,” explains Wevers.

This gritty original score combines a heavy beat with inspired vocal elements of Wevers’ musings on his fears, beliefs and inspirations. While deeply personal and dark, both visually and in tone, Wevers’ still inserts brief moments of his trademark whimsy into his latest masterpiece. In focusing on his own vision of fallibility, Wevers’ deft choreography serves to enhance these voice-over obsessions with practically heart-wrenching insight. As a result, Wevers’ self-viewed imperfections re transformed into tremendous personal strengths.

Rounding out the show is a revisiting of the award-winning FRAGMENTS. For Wevers, acknowledgement of the past is crucial aspect of progress. He explains, “In moving forward and creating an identity for Whim W’Him, it is important that we move ahead with innovation but also embrace the past from time to time. FRAGMENTS is a piece that keeps evolving, but also is a wink back to an earlier time in my career.”

A work of impeccable range and talent, Third Degree is a remarkable ovation-worthy creation.