The nude section of Seattle choreographer Pat Graney's full-evening dance "Faith" - which has its world premiere Thursday through Saturday at the Moore Theatre - promises the Graney Company the most publicity.
Yet, as with works by other dance makers using nudity as an attention-getting and point-making device, it shouldn't obscure the 75-minute show's other presentation styles and underlying ideas.
Graney tries to show, in four sections and small solos by seven women, "the way women question their traditional roles in society," says Mark Murphy, the On the Boards director, who is presenting "Faith" as OTB's Northwest New Performance Series season closer.
The first section of "Faith" offers theatrical tableaux inspired by sculptural and light qualities of 16th century religious paintings, and by the weight and volume of the bodies of women they depicted - especially those in works by Caravaggio. It's danced to the music of Arvo Part.
The second segment was inspired by the film-animation work of Zbignew Ribchinkski. In it the dancers use a number of large rubber balls and perform to music by the rock group This Mortal Coil.
Graney puts all the women in high-heeled pumps to perform the work's third section and gives them angular moves to music by Lights in a Fat City. She strips the women for the fourth section, which is inspired by nudes on Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling, and set to music by local composer Rachel Warwick.
The piece's short solos are danced to music by Seattle's Amy Denio.
"This is not a narrative," Graney says. "You may have definite feelings as you watch the visual images go by. But it's dreamlike, not like my usual crash-burn-and-die dances. It has a very staid aesthetic. I'm trusting the visual images hold that in the performance."
She notes that the Moore, unlike the more plebeian On the Boards, is like a mausoleum and cathedral combined, "with a past that's varied, and so really fits my piece. They both sort of exist through time."
"The work is personal and definitely risk-taking," Graney says. "I had been looking at Caravaggio's paintings, the composition and tension and way light is used. I came up with this idea of perceptions, images, of women throughout history."
OTB commissioned the production, with music by Northwest and international composers, in cooperation with the prestigious Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Lee, Mass., and the Helena Presents series in Helena, Mont. Graney's new piece tours to these places immediately after its Seattle premiere.
Graney is one of this area's best-known dance makers, noted for her athleticism, intellect and wit. She's earned several National Endowment for the Arts choreography grants, commissions from groups such as Pacific Northwest Ballet, and has taken her company to the Edinburgh Festival, and to London, as well as to locations throughout North America.
She's put 150 dancers and gymnasts on stage on the Seattle waterfront for outdoor performances of "Piers 62/63" during last year's Goodwill Arts Festival.
Graney has spent the past few months developing and rehearsing "Faith" and another work, "Sax House," the latter using music by the Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet. "Sax House" will have its West Coast premiere during Labor Day weekend's Bumbershoot Arts Festival at Seattle Center.
But Easterners will see it first, at New York's Serious Fun Festival.