We're expressing ourselves through more channels than ever before, but what are we saying? That might well be the question driving this riveting new contemporary dance work by Portland performance company Teeth, which debuts this week. In it, two men (Philip Elson and Noel Plemmons) and two women (Molly Sides and Shannon Stewart) embody the image manipulation, incessant chatter and selective hearing of the information age. Well-articulated unisons give way to self-conscious posturing, rough partnering and the herky-jerky movement of wind-up toys. Some of the imagery is provocative, and much of it is intentionally unpretty, although the dancers, with their technical chops and laserlike focus, do it beautifully. Their onstage vocals, from mumbles to yelps, are also manipulated as part of the ambient score, which is partially prerecorded and partially digitized live, cocooning the audience in white noise.
Local dance presenter White Bird has commissioned Make/Believe, with choreography by co-director Angelle Hebert and music by her composer and partner Phillip Kraft. This is not the first time Hebert and Kraft have tackled identity and communication issues. A previous work, Grub, drew inspiration from the time they found themselves emailing each other from laptops perched on the same table. Since its 2006 inception, the company has moved from elaborately staged shows toward the more emotionally raw aesthetic of their 2010 duet, Home Made, which White Bird cofounder Paul King described as "an earnest depiction of who they are."
Hebert and Kraft continue to peel away artifice in part, they say, because they'd like to tour internationally (less baggage or all kinds makes you more attractive to promoters), but also out of a desire to communicate more effectively with viewers, and with each other.
For her part, Hebert is reluctant to discuss the work before its debut, for fear of feeding viewers preconceived ideas. But, she added with a laugh, "We can talk afterward."
SEE IT: Lincoln Hall at Portland State University, 1620 SW Park Ave., 725-3307. 8 pm Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 26-28. $20-$30. Tickets at whitebird.org.