No TBA event is more popularized than Ten Tiny Dances, a curated showcase that confines its artists to a 4? × 4? space, but otherwise gives them very free rein. On Saturday, people turned out in the expected droves. Those who got in craned to catch every twitch of the action, while come-latelies moped on the sidewalk, wondering what they were missing.
Breaking glass, spooky railyard sounds, and pitch-darkness pierced by green lazers left intrepid adventurer Danielle Ross undaunted. Creeping in from the wings with a flashlight, she stepped into contrasting violet light to confront the criscrossing emerald threads one at a time with stilted robotic gestures. Each time a beam hit her head or neck, it diffused into a glowing puddle on her skin, accompanied by a glass-crash. As the piece progressed, she sank closer and closer to the floor—and all of a sudden, she was gone.
Carla Mann and Jim McGinn joined forces for a mature, gender-equal pas de deux, characterized by more his-and-hers parallel poses than lifts or spins. Mann even took a turn dipping and spotting McGinn. Their saffron-colored costumes, along with strains of sitar in the music, lent the piece a slight (though likely unintentional) Hare Krishna tone.
Part 1/The Fall Raja Feather Kelly took the stage in a Warhol Wig, white-face, and sunglasses. With a letter clasped between his teeth (and though our notes don’t reflect it, we think we remember another one clinging to his butt), he gyrated slowly and jaggedly to Connie Francis’ Fallin’, inspiring in this watcher only one question: “Heroin?”
Part 2/The Past “Warhol” returned, joined by a boozy-looking Marilyn Monroe. Haphazardly, the two lounged around a table and held up cue cards that said things like “IMAGINE A HALF-BLOWN BUBBLE” and “OK GO.” The music? “Time’s A-Wastin.’” And so it seemed.
Part 3/The Attempt Actual choreographed dancing separated this from the prior two parts. Marilyn and Andy performed a sort of laconic bunny-hop, firing “finger-gun” gestures at the crowd, then collapsing.
Ten Tiny Founder Mike Barber and Cydney Wilkes are the pair who pulled off a tongue-in-cheek 60’s trophy tableau in 2010 . This time, they took their absurdity to the next level, romping around in matching tube dresses, up-ending the stage to play a version of “king of the mountain,” flashing their boobies and underpanties, molting a few colorful feathers, and wrassling in a puppyish pile.
5. No Nukes
Kemumaki Yoko, of upcoming Offsite Dance Project, “awoke” to a pulsing white light. In an awkwardly shoulderpadded white blouse, a tattered black skirt and a sleek bob that would almost pass Japan’s stringent standards for business attire, she seemed to be impersonating one of the increasingly humanoid female robots that Japanese scientists are working tirelessly to perfect. Her automaton gestures kept time with various mechanical blips and tones. As these became more insistent and alarming, intermingled with what sounded like schoolyard shrieks, her gestures gradually became more lifelike. She touched her crotch, crouched, reeled, and fell to the floor. Standing, she gazed into the crowd, pushed back her hair, pounded her heart. Miming a silent scream, she fell down again. The pulsing light resumed, but this time it was blood red.
6. Phillippe Bronchtein
Backed by his own composition, a juxtoposition of legato clarinet and a somewhat industrial beat, the big-bearded Bronchtein seemed to be trying to split the difference between fluid and mechanical movement.
Returning from last year’s Offsite Dance Project, Yukio Suzuki seemed to reprise last season’s character: a crazed conductor of a secret inner symphony, posessed and strained to the brink of breaking by his own personal demons—to the point of smashing his head against the floor. An eerie trip-hop rendition of I Will Survive pulled him through his closed-eyed reverie.
8. Slipping Through My Fingers Portland Taiko performances tend to always feel the same, which is to say: traditional, invigorating, exotic and well-paced. This piece, with Michelle Fujii at the helm, was no exception.
9. Taylor Mac
The artist that TimeOut New York called “one of the most exciting theater artists of our time” brought an engaging stage presence as he rapidly peeled off clothes and duct tape to reveal his penis.
Carla Mann (dancing double duty, see item # 2) emerged as a bathing-capped and suited mutant, making strange noises and strained facial contortions, laughing dementedly while autistically air-humping. Jessie Berdine, shirtless and resembling Wolverine, attacked the stage with an axe and chopped it to smithereens, leaving just enough in-tact to give Mann a leg to stand on, marooned like a polar bear on a melted berg. As circus music swelled, she croaked along to the melody, arms spasming and face twitching a series of tics.
All in all, this didn’t seem like one of TTD’s stronger sets. 1, 5, and 6 were all solo riffs on “the robot”—fine on their own, but too samey when presented together. 2 and 4 also echoed each other as “equal partner” pas de deux, though 4 was undeniably more playful. 3 was a wild card, but rather than being refreshing, it came off as a half-baked nuisance, constantly resurfacing but barely lifting a limb to contribute. When contrasted with last year’s irreverent, high-energy Culture Machine, it further pales. Taiko and tEEth proved the most memorable, and were also the most and least traditional pieces, respectively. Taylor Mac showed moxie, for sure, but his piece seemed rushed, both in conception and execution. (Put on the spot? Quick: Take off your clothes!) At its best, TTD is full of surprises, but this installment was rife with redundancies. So if you got stuck on the sidewalk—don’t beat yourself up.