Friday, January 21
Foot in Mouth/Locust
What an evening of contrasts. The first piece by Foot in Mouth just didnít work for me. I kept trying to make it make sense Ė the set begged my brain for some kind of context Ė were these twins wandering around the airport of the world? Whatís up with the Hansel and Gretel motif? Were they grieving, lost or missing, unloved except by each other? After a while, I ceased to care and usually that doesnít happen. Then my focus would shift and I kept hoping that the stewardess deejays would do something unexpected at their shiny cool mixing terminal and then suddenly they would sing but only for the briefest of moments. If the theme of this piece was missing persons, then at the end of the performance I was unclaimed.
The second piece was mischievous, capricious, exuberant and above all playful. Locustís ensemble of five dancers was strong, practiced and highly energetic and from the opening sequence I was enchanted. It was all about motion at play. The seamless blending of pair and trio dancing - almost capoieria-like - was so tight, full of grace and balanced tension. The music they all made was ambitious and infectious and sometimes it downright rocked. You could tell they all worked their asses off as they put this piece together but it was abundantly clear they had fun every step of the way. Maybe no oneís ideas were ignored or discounted. I mean, how cool is it to dance in front of a video screen of yourself dancing?
Thursday, January 20
Foot in Mouth/Locust
The first moments of Foot in Mouth's "Last Seen" are haunting in the manner of the best fairy tales--leaving you with an image that feels both startlingly new and spookily ancient. Four figures are posed in front of a purple video screen: two stewardesses (judging by their fabulously old-school outfits, these are definitely not "flight attendants"); and two "children" wearing lederhosen (dancers Alice De Muizon and Amelia Reeber on their knees). All four are coiffed in blond bobs. They move forward--or are they staying in the same spot? it's deliciously hard to tell at first--until the stewardesses let go of the children's hands and go off to do their busywork.
As is the intention of fairy tales, I was reminded of my own childhood. Though I'm fairly certain I was never subjected to lederhosen, as Children of Divorce my sister and I were victims of the FAA's Unaccompanied Minor policy. In the '70s, children flying solo were required to wear a giant red button pinned to their jackets that read "Unaccompanied Minor." We might as well have stood at Gate 27 and announced, "Attention pedophiles, we're right here, with nary a parent in sight!" As an adult, when I fly during the holidays, I always watch for the kids being shuttled between irreconcilable parents. These being the days of the milk-carton missing, the buttons are more subtle, not quite so declarative about children making their lonely passage across the sky. But the looks in the kids' eyes reflect the feeling I remember. Yes, I'm a big girl, but what if no one is there to pick me up at the other end? What if they forgot?
Fear of abandonment (both childlike and ever enduring) seems to be the theme of "Last Seen," which references the Hansel and Gretel story with a frantic run through the forest and the appearance of a creepy witch-crow thing with long yellow talons that cooks up one of the children and slices and dices her for lunch. The ethereal, mesmerizing music, provided via live looping by officious stewardesses Eryn Young and Ivory Smith, is most in tune with the movement when it consists of a series of caught breaths, murmurs and moans... reflecting the surprise and shock of finding yourself alone.
The piece stands in compelling contrast to Locust's "Convenience," which also employs video, live looping and dance, but with an almost entirely different result. Where "Last Seen" is muted, "Convenience" is campy; where the former reverberates with dissonant tones, the latter jumps with hip-hop percussion; where "Last Seen" is polished, "Convenience" embraces an in-your-face DIY spirit; where the first seeks narrative, the second is a smorgasbord of choreographed fight scenes, videotaped comedy sketches, and athletic dancing (not to mention roller skates and velcro).
While "Convenience" seems hell-bent on throwing out one skilled dance segment right after another--like a kid pulling all her favorite toys out of the box at once--the piece feels strongest to me when it slows down and luxuriates in one thing. Take, for example, the segment in which all five dancers (two women, three men) dance in a row at the back of the stage on their own private squares of red carpet. The lighting works to separate them into individual compartments, and the result is a Rear Window style view into their own little apartments. The fact that they're all making the same movements--but out of synch and alone--is as lovely and touching as the accompanying music.
Foot in Mouth - locust
After years of business travel in coach, during which I donnned noise-cancelling headphones and remained oblivious to everything but the laptop in front of me, I used the wad of frequent flyer miles to fly first class to Australia. On that flight they put us into individual sleeper pods, and I noticed that in contrast to the mayhem in coach, within 15 minutes after dinner, eveyone in first class was tucked in soundly like kindergarteners for afternoon naps, with not a laptop, personal movie screen, or reading light illuminated. The feeling of being a child alone on plane was eerily familiar as Foot in Mouth's "Last Seen" opened, with two flight attendents accompanying two young children clutching blankies and stuffed toys to a flight, all in slow motion.
The modern child does not got through the woods to visit grandma's house: she gets put on a plane, but that doesn't stop the fairy-talk wonder, anxiety, and twisted imagination of the journey, which were depicted in the piece. For me, the centerpiece was the operation to cure the illness caused by eating too much cake; it was performed with a pizza cutter and attended by a cronish bird. The mime throughout this piece was superb. When it turned from mime and fullbodied slow movement to dancing, though, the impetus to change the character of the movement did not seem inevitable. The score, both recorded and live singing by composers Ivory Smith and Eryn Young, was quite beautiful, and fit the mood and arc of the piece like a glove.
By contrast, the music for locust's "convenience" opened in a percussive mode with what sounded like velcro and springs, as two dancers on a low platform riffed on the score and a woman on a video screen on the opposite side of the stage slid off and climbed on and around a couch. I can't begin to fathom if there was a structure that held this piece -- a series of dances for all combinations of five performers interspersed with video -- together. But throughout there were such delights: the opening duet, a sensuous dance solo for a woman on roller skates holding onto the back wall, a driving duet for two men, "bad" commercials for a personal ninja (Pocket Warrior) and a device to take out annoying people, and a fabulous video in which the cast becomes the marionette strings to help a member cook and eat breakfast. The score by Zeke Keeble was superb. Although I thought the choreography itself spanned great to indifferent, I could not keep my eyes off of the woman with short, dark hair; every movement she made was compelling, whatever she danced.
Balanchine used to say that if people didn't like his choreography, they should close their eyes, and they'd get a good concert. The music alone in this double bill would have been worth it, but I am doubly glad I kept my eyes open.
Foot in Mouth / locust
1. This evening is immensely satisfying, in part because the two halves are so radically different.
2. Some things both shows have in common: Video projections, a mix of live and prerecorded sound in which vocal samples figure prominently, women undressing to their underclothes, plastic chairs.
3. Some adjectives I'd use to describe Foot in Mouth's "Last Seen":
Cool, sad, smooth, elegant, sincere. Some adjectives I'd use to describe locust's "convenience": Frenetic, comic, raw, awkward, flippant.
4. Cool vs. Frenetic: More a matter of texture than attitude. "Last Seen" is openly stylized and composed, from the ‘50s chic stewardess costumes (designed by K.D. Schill) to the collapsable trees (designed by Steven Berardelli) to the slow, careful walk of the performers that opens of the show. "convenience" seems thrown together in a frenzy that just happens to hold together.
5. Sad vs. Comic: Self-explanatory. "Last Seen" riffs on lost children (Hansel and Gretl, statistics from missing children ads); what could be sadder? This is not so say it's humorless; Alice de Muizon plucks a gumdrop from a gingerbread house and eats it with sly satisfaction.
"convenience" creates music from velcro-soled shoes and has advertisements for kung-fu warriors that can be kept in your pocket and blowguns, featuring the loopy free-associative monologues of Reggie Watts.
6. Smooth vs. Raw: The surface of "Last Seen" is clean and uncluttered, from the blond Aryan bobbed wigs to the sleek, graceful sweeps of the dancers legs. The materials have been synthesized into a cohesive look.
"convenience" feels assembled from spare parts, hammered or slapped into position, all coherence comes from an internal momentum.
7. Elegant vs. Awkward. Amelia Reeber and de Muizon move like cats, as if they don't sweat; Ivory Smith and Eryn Young stand poised as serpents, whispering wordless seductions into their microphones. As Amy O'Neal, Ellie Sandstrom, Zeke Keeble, Garbiel Baron, and Troy Miszklevitz dance, clothes rumple, hair flies askew, limbs jerk in various directions, performers push and pull each other this way and that, heat rising from laboring flesh.
8. Sincere vs. Flippant: Though the tenor of the performance is aloof, "Last Seen" concludes with a lovely, heartbreaking lullaby of abandonment.
"convenience" ends when the audience is knocked unconscious with a poisoned dart, and after the curtain call there's an advertisement that discourages walking as old-fashioned and unnecessary.
9. By the evening's end, every artistic taste bud has been stimulated.
Some will prefer the controlled focus of Foot in Mouth, others the vibrant chaos of locust, but each is enhanced by the other, giving the experience the nourishment and savor of a multi-course meal.
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