fEEding the Feedback Mar 2, 2012

by Leah Vendl

The conceptual line between audience and performers dissolves for me at the beginning of tEEth’s Make/Believe, the moment the performers crawl towards the audience through the thin line of light bisecting them like a CAT scan. Throughout the piece, the performers humble themselves in a way that makes my mind osmosize into the stage-space and forget that I’m “watching a performance.” 

Angelle Hebert’s beginning choreography is sensual symmetry. Controlled, smooth posing and pairing, Shannon Stewart and Molly Sides’ arms are poised with all angles activated, hands made into ready pluckers or pokers. Well-hidden passing of two microphones lands them clutched between thighs, as the two women slowly rock from ball of foot to heel, arching and hollowing into crescents with mouths trying to open further than they're capable. Noel Plemmon and Philip Elson, on all fours, use the crotch-mics for amplification. 

The way Hebert has her dancers hold their bodies is like composer Philip Kraft’s sound—a firm, bass-driven core with loose-flinging phalanges. In addition to knowingly playful, game-like chimes, Kraft's verbal top-scape—virtually all triggered and manipulated live—throws the emotional content, already self-conscious (“Don’t fuck up”) into a literal feedback loop, which amplifies and distorts itself with every sampling of self-doubt added to it. Particularly at the end of Stewart’s solo, she is left to dance in the swelling mess of what she created with her own voice, overwhelmed by her own incomprehensible commentary.

The dancers try to recount their days, telling themselves or each other, but are thwarted by other dancer’s legs, feet, biceps, and fingers. While paired, the dancers are at odds, preventing each other from speaking. But at the same time, the couples are identically dressed and their movements are so enmeshed that they are two sides of a singular entity--the self which prevents itself. They are the embodiment of a divided mind which exteriorizes pieces of itself to hold onto conflict, to avoid the confrontation necessary to come to the truth that these fragmented selves are both inside us. 

In a moment of such pairing highlighted by a thick bar of light, Elson slowly wraps Stewart’s head with the long microphone cord, turning it into a black beehive, then starts to wrap his own head with the same wire, making rings of Jupiter that magnetize his head to Stewart’s. They walk, semi-spooned, elegantly, even softly in unison, not for the sake of beautiful partnering, but for the sake of not ripping out eyelashes. It’s an image that marks tEEth’s harsh-harmony aesthetic, but gentle proof that the sublime is made when we choose to embrace the singularity we’re already part of.