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Monday, September 13, 2010

A Late and Practically Irrelevant Breakdown on the 22nd Installment of Ten Tiny Dances (with Pictures!)

Posted by Patrick Alan Coleman on Mon, Sep 13, 2010 at 1:42 PM

Anne Furfeys Sink
  • Ian Goodrich
  • Anne Furfey's Sink
The difficulty with a Tiny Dance is that within the constraints of space and time—a small stage, and maybe around ten minutes—it can be hard for a choreographer to get across what they want to get across. It seems to me, longer performances with more stage allow choreographers/performers much more leeway to build a gestural vocabulary that reveals the artists intent, slowly and surely. (Or not).

That's what makes Ten Tiny Dances so much goddamn fun to watch. Saturday night’s was the 22nd performance of the series, and once again 10 choreographers/performance groups had to find a balance between being too obvious, and too subtle; too loud, and too soft; too obscure, and too obscure. As always, some succeeded and some did not.

Oddly enough, the same could be said about writing a blog post concerning Ten Tiny Dances. After the Jump, for your consideration, I wax all art critic-like and high-minded about the diminutive dances. Then, to balance out the pretentiousness with even more pretentiousness, I offer a series of alternate titles for those who don't want to read all the other bullshit. It's like a TBA critic choose-your-own-adventure! Ready? Go!

1. Sink

Performed and choreographed by Anne Furfey, this dance offered one of the more interesting augmentations I've seen to the Tiny Dance stage, thanks to rhiza (not RZA) A+D. But while the soft, circular, trampoline “sink” in the center of the stage was a surprise, it didn't dominate the performance by being over-used in the choreography. In fact, I would have liked to have seen it used more. As it was, I don't believe the stage played enough of a role that its designers should be brought out and applauded at the end. Which they were.

The performance itself, with its dreamy quality, evoked for me a sense of childhood sleep walking. The sink and bounce of the stage only deepened that connection—the performance ending with vacant springing, like a weary kid jumping on the bed.

Alternate Titles:

Good Night, Mini-Tramp
White Ladies Can Jump
The Soft Gimmick
Puppy Farts for One

2. A version

IMGP0652.JPG
  • Ian Goodrich
Mike Barber, founder of Ten Tiny Dances, and his partner Cydney Wilkes, choreographed and danced one of the more humorous pieces of the evening. It was was dark humor to be sure, with a focus towards how the victories we seek in our lives can sometimes work to hinder us, and even come between us (in this case, literally).

The well-dressed pair swung and swayed in ballroom-esque concentration, on a stage crowded by trophies, accompanied by a drunken, wavering,Tom Jones track. The pair admired, and eventually tried to rid themselves of the shiny baubles, but they were returned to the stage by planted audience members (Patron Pass holders? That's kind of funny) where the heavy based trophies hindered the fluidity of the dance again. Eventually, as they gathered all of their victories between them, the dance could only ceases. I liked it!

Alternate Titles:

The Trophy Wife
These Things are Heavy
How to Lose an Accidental Injury Lawsuit
Hamburger Arthroplasty

3. City

This was one of the more underwhelming pieces in this years' selection. But it's possible I simply didn't get it. Then again, Katherine Longstreth's choreography wasn't all that compelling to me. While she stretched and moved across a stage covered in feathers, I could only be distracted by her Star Trek type outfit, which became muddled with thoughts of Icarus (because I only seek the obvious answers if you hadn't already figured that out).

When the performance ended with Fanfare for the Common Man, and Longstreth donned a pin-striped suit, I think the laughter the moment evoked from the audience may have been unintentional. Maybe not. And actually, now I'm reflecting on it, it's quite possible the whole dance was an homage to Mad Men. Or maybe the movie Starman. Is that a stretch?

Alternate Titles:

Don Draper's Lament
Trekkie's Lament
Movements in the Key of Starman
Resplendent Quetzal


4. Dayna Hanson

IMGP0792.JPG
  • Ian Goodrich

An excerpt from her show Gloria's Cause, Hanson's Tiny Dance brought to the small stage one of the best bits from her work in progress. The crowd seemed genuinely enthused when an animatronic George Washington turned into a poppin' n' lockin' funky colonial robot. Proving perhaps that in pieces Gloria's Cause is brilliant, but as a whole has the ability to evince some very divergent reactions.

Alternate Titles:

Suck It, Claudia

5. High

Local legend Linda Austin choreographed, designed and performed this paper-filled little morsel of a dance. Languid and slow at the outset, Austin's movements and rustling/nesting motions made me think of the homeless wrapped in newspaper cocoons. The effect was heightened by a cacophonous soundtrack that jangled and swelled like a city street at rush hour, or perhaps a subway stop.

When Austin's choreography reached a peak of sweeping violence across the her paper landscape, the swirling movements, lit from under the stage, created a memorizing abstract image—projected on a screen behind audience members seated on stage.

Alternate Titles:

The Dance of a Thousand Paper Cuts
Building a Nest on Pennies a Day
Howdy Rustler
Milk-thistle Winnebago

6. La Chaim Crimes & Punishment

La Chaim Crimes & Punishment
  • Ian Goodrich
  • La Chaim Crimes & Punishment
Woolly Mammoth Comes to Dinner presented a chilling little number excerpted from a larger piece called She is Ourselves. It was jam-packed with a weird kind of sexuality, more disturbing than erotic, as the trio of young costumed ladies writhed and twisted, spanking themselves, exposing themselves, and crying out for someone who's left.

Some in the Ten Tiny Dances audience found the piece hi-larious, and maybe I would have too if I weren't such a fuddy-duddy stick-in-the-mud. But it felt as if these gestures were a kind of accusation leveled at a culture I'm not sure I know. When the dancers lifted their tops and exposed themselves, it felt wrong and uncomfortable. Somehow more dirty than one would expect. Maybe it had something to do with the balaclava. I have mixed feelings about seeing the entirety of their piece tomorrow night at the works, but I expect to be challenged. At least I'll be drinking.

Alternate Titles:

No, Really. Look at These Fucking Hipsters
Fat Albert's Rejects (with thanks to Ben)
There's Something in YOUR Pants
Mole-snout Graveyard

7. Clearly Another World

I think out of all the performances of the evening, I appreciated Eric Skinner's the most. Not because it was somehow more exciting or engaging than any of the others, but because out of all of the performances it was the most simple. Skinner was one of the few performers who attacked the limitations of the Tiny Dance stage with just his body and his gesture.

The piece was certainly accessible, and familiar to anyone who suffered the ennui of living in a 9 to 5 world that just keeps eating us up (both psychically and physically). Beginning with a rude awakening, Skinner tosses and turns across the stage until the cacophony of the world breaks apart and gives way to Antony and the Johnsons (who apparently must be heard at every single TBA). The rest is longing for a newer world, and sadness for the one we're leaving behind.

Alternate Titles:

You're Telling Me?
Ain't Nothing Will Save Us
Yes. It’s Depressing.
Greedo in Blue

8. Dance #1

Michael Rioux doesn't give a shit about your artist statement. He just wants you to shake your ass and make the world a beautiful place to live. He and his partner, Monica Gilliam will accomplish this by shouting a lot and encouraging an audience dance party. That's about the gist of it.

Alternate Titles:

No. No. I Mean Look at These Fucking Hipsters!
Your Audience Has No Rhythm
I Want to Make This Piece ABOUT A MINUTE SHORTER!
Ethel Merman’s Mirken

9. Culture Machine: Satellite No. 6

1284345880-imgp1047.jpg
  • Ian Goodrich

Tahni Holt takes a page out of Nature Theater of Oklahoma's book with this odd and kind of fantastic piece. I assume the Method here is very much the same as Nature Theater's No Dice wherein dialogue is synchronized via iPod and then spoken aloud as it plays. The effect this had as Holt’s brightly clad quartet spun on stage, declaring themselves various heroes of art and culture, was fairly mesmerizing. It was also very machine-like in its noisy babble, but that only makes sense.

Well played to put this loud, colorful piece toward the end of the evening’s program. While some in the audience began to slouch, this was just the kind of jangly performance that was needed to wake them up.

Alternate Titles:

Look at this Fucking Package
The Screeching Rainbow
Kitten in a Blender

10. Mike Daisey

The funny thing is, before the evening started, there was a lot of conjecture about what Mike Daisey would be doing. “Is he just going to get on stage and rant?” wondered one audience member to their row mate. The answer was "No."

Daisey did dance, in his own way, pulling off an easy crowd pleasing performance wherein a man in search of art, instead finds a strange form of fruity cunnilingus.

Alternate Titles:

None. Trying to give this piece an alternate title would be like comparing pussy to oranges.

Thank you. I’ll be here all week.

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