September 13th, 2011 | by MATTHEW KORFHAGE Arts & Books | Posted In: Dance

TBA Diary: tEEth, Home Made

teeth home madeby karleysullivan.com courtesy of the portland institute of contemporary art
It is a wonderful thing to be able to revisit a strong performance piece almost a year later, and to notice entirely different things in it. During my first viewing of Teeth’s moving dance piece Home Made, in November of last year, my overwhelming impression was of its harrowing nature, its demanding emotional seesaw that left one, at the end, entirely spent. I wasn’t alone in this: a pair of friends refused to see it again because—while they had previously enjoyed it and found it powerful—they nonetheless felt that watching the piece twice would be masochism, a wearying and unnecessary revisitation of primal trauma. It would be like, say, marrying the same person twice, replaying all the ecstasies and re-inflicting all the deepest wounds: only some would have the fortitude or the will.

So I went in expecting, again, to feel bruised and battered by the piece but found something else instead: that either the piece had evolved over the year, or that it takes on a new aspect upon repeat viewings. I suspect that both are true.

Dancers Keely McIntyre and Noel Plemmons have developed a touching intimacy over their multiple performances of Home Made, and it is this more than anything, I think, that has changed much of the character of the piece. The two have a level of comfort and understanding with each other on the floor that acts as the piece’s fundamental medium, the air it breathes, its base and its materials. So during the piece’s idyllic first movements, there was a deeply moving tenderness between the dancers that then hung as an aura over the more discordant emotional thickets that the piece later enters into: its frustrations and cross-purposes and failed couplings.

But the second thing I noticed was that in my first viewing I had been so affected by the burdening emotional strife in the piece that I had overlooked what now seems to be its most fundamental quality: its sense of playfulness. Plemmons has a face that in its expressions is natural to comedy, while McIntyre’s elastic face and large, sensual features are equally amenable both to delicate evocations of emotion and to comic hyperbole.

I am reminded that the first time I read Kafka, as a teen, I thought that he was dour and humorless and maybe a bit of a whiner. Only in later readings did it become apparent that he was, at heart, a tragic comedian: that each absurdist failure or persecution was an exercise of love and bemusement on the part of their author, and that the lasting relevance of the stories derives from this humor. Home Made has evolved for me similarly.

As the writer Lorrie Moore has said in an interview: if it isn’t funny, it probably isn’t true. Home Made is, don’t get me wrong, an affecting and demanding and ambitious piece, and often not for the impatient or the faint of heart, but as it turns out it’s also pretty funny.

SEE IT: Home Made plays 8:30 pm Tuesday-Wednesday, Sept. 13-14 at The Mouth at Zoomtopia, 810 SE Belmont St., 224-7422, pica.org. $20. PICA's Time-Based Art Festival continues through Sept. 18.

Matthew Korfhage is a freelance writer and itinerant wind turbine technician. He is currently at work on a novel.
 
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