(aside: well better late than not, eh? As Mr. Berra said, “it ain’t over till it’s over.” 360 more days til TBA 07! Forthwith, a re-view of TTD at The Works last week.)
The lineup of Ten Tiny Dances for TBA’s Works that Mike Barber put together this year exemplified what makes the format–work made in the round on a 4ft. by 4ft. stage–so perfect for this kind of cabaret setting. Spatial tininess challenges choreographers who are up to the task while temporal tinyness keeps things swinging right along, upping the entertainment value. And entertainment value is what I sometimes forget when thinking about TTD. I have seen some extraordinary work built for this circumscribed space, work that truly addresses the confines of the space while transcending them.
And so when work that is light entertainment, like Gaelen Hanson’s one-liner jig with a whiskey bottle (x4) singing “our love is fair to middlin’” and Julie Atlas Muz’s ebony-and-ivory piece involving body paint, black light, and a gentleman dancer inserting a flag in her upended I-don’t-know-what, I might enjoy, but am underwhelmed.
Bebe Miller addressed the space with a piece that was as low-key and contained as something one might perform in an elevator between floors, a thoughtful, hopeful little sketch. Concentric Tango addressed emotional containment with a meditative piece in which the dancers deliberately looked away from each other and down, their bodies in conversation, the female dancer’s mile-long leg intertwining with his and unfurling again.
Dim Sum Puppet Opera offered the tiniest dance of all, a ceramic hand puppet performing a restrained fan dance around the the pagoda-hidden head of the puppeteer, nothing more. As a curatorial decision, the inclusion of Dim Sum was brilliant.
In contrast were expressive or intense releases of energy (almost expressionist…can I use that word to describe dance? oh, I just did) in pieces including the comic theatricality of Juliet Waller Pruzan and Stephen Hando whose piece found them stranded on a raft as part of a corporate training session, Angelle Hebert’s piece danced (amazingly) by Karla Mann wherein the manic Mann (outfitted in a corset and cap that somehow managed to scream straighjacket anyway) intensely and repetitively flapped and flopped, grinning and eventually oblivious of Phillip Kraft who hacks away at her stage with an axe until it is only a foot square (making it the second tiniest dance ever).
The experiment most likely to succeed, that I wanted to see executed more faithfully and at length was instigated by Emily Stone who had her dancers and musicians improvise on a score called solo replay. With interesting movers like herself and Kathleen Keogh, and intensely listening musicians like Jonathan Sielaff and Luke Wyland, there was plenty of heavy improvising talent here. Dancers and musicians entered and left the 4×4 arena, at times riffing off movements that came before, but the piece needed much more time to develop, the throughline became murky, and I wanted the musicians to more directly engage the movement (either through movement of their own or through sound) throughout. Can’t wait to see it happen again.
The perfect marriage of addressing spatial constraint and entertaining the masses was danced by three members of the Nature Theater of Oklahoma. Each comic character had his (or her) awkward dance routine performed solo and with great bravado (a fuck-yeah!-tittude) to the brilliant accompaniment of one company member on an enhanced washboard. The incredible thing about the piece, though, was when the same dances were layered in pairs and finally a trio, with surprising overlaps and intersections in the movements that made them 35% funnier and more interesting than when performed solo. Huzzah.
–Lisa Radon