September 11th, 2009 5:33 pm | by MATTHEW KORFHAGE News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

TBA Diary: AMYO/tinyrage, Too

Tags: TBA, Dance, Video

Amy O'Neal is rightly well known for her kinetic, inventive hip hop dance with locust (read WW's review of their TBA performance this week) and with performance artist Reggie Watts, but in her TBA Fest show with Ellie Sandstrom, Too, there are much different things at stake.

The piece begins not with live dance but with film, with a David-Lynch creep up the steps to a house, and what follows is a montage of domestic and urban tableaux filmed in places far flung as Denton (TX), Seattle, and Tokyo—in archaic wallpapered room, at a park, at a wall, on a rain slicked city roof, in front of a loading ramp—in which the spaces' normal context is first enacted, then transformed by dance into foreign spaces, as if they were only now being discovered.

Meanwhile O'Neal and Sandstrom are gathering the appropriate costumes and laying them neatly on the stage as the film plays, in preparation for a deeply unexpected turn (one I'm now ruining for you if you haven't seen this), in which O'Neal and Sandstrom, with bravissimo discipline, create a new dance out of the pieces of all of the other far-flung dances as they flit across the screen in short takes—picking up on pieces in the park, then at the wall, then in a computer lab—convincingly stitching a wide array of movements into a single movement, trying on the costumes of the various dancers as if to make themselves appropriate to each environment, or appropriate to each dancer. Really, they changed clothes almost self-consciously, as if they had arrived at the wrong dinner party. Aside from being technically impressive and downright humorous and a hell of a show, it was also emotionally affecting.

Of course, this flies apart, becomes confused—and this confusion is underlined in a segment that defies all fluidity, in which the same feat is attempted (and fails miserably) with karaoke. On screen "My Humps" blurs into "Beer Belly" into "Total Eclipse of the Heart" into "Sweet Child of Mine," seamlessly but impossibly: no one could ever sing along. Except that in dance, it can again cohere: when the movers take to dancing to the filmed karaoke, instead of singing, O'Neal picks up even the postures of someone leaning back on a couch, as a spectator—and the gesture is terribly, beautifully intimate.

In the program guide, Too purports to be about the challenges of human to human contact—and this is hammered home in the show's only major misstep, the heavy-handed set piece in a Japanese love hotel that thuddingly closes the piece, in which the dancers become slappy puppets of sorts, ruined for humanity. But throughout most of the performance what was striking was the absolute fluidity of O'Neal and Sandstrom as they asserted and reasserted each role and reapportioned themselves to each contact. And it was this that also seemed truer to the world that we experience each day, a consistent readjustment to new contexts and codes that don't require breaking so much as assimilation in grades. And, still, out of this hodgepodged mimicry and mirroring (listen to two old friends laugh when together, or see how they dress, then follow each home to their spouses), there is nonetheless a genuine intimacy. Too, when it maintained its lighthearted ambiguities—which was during most of the piece, even during a chaotically violent push-pull breakdown at the piece's midpoint—was a testament to a cobbled-together, half-borrowed life that to most of us is achingly familiar.

AMYO/tinyrage perform Too at The Works at Washington High School, 531 SE 14th Ave. 6:30 pm Friday-Saturday. $20.

Photos by Kenneth Aaron courtesy of

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