This past Friday and Saturday Samuel Hanson and Kitty Sailer presented their show dog & pony to a very respectable turn-out at the Rose Wagner Studio Theatre. The show was what one might call dance theatre, where the movement, text, song, and in this case, some berry flavored popsicles are all employed to create the desired affect. Throughout the hour long run-time two pieces where shown, the first choreographed by Sailer, and the second a collaborative duet between Sailer and Hanson.
honey cake pony begins with a group of bodies moving on an unlit stage, their self-absorbed undulations and body rolls only seen when another dancer switches on a small light that is moved up and down their bodies. It is a stunning, unexpected way to open the show. This small light that reveals or conceals the dancers experiencing somewhat intimate moments with themselves, making a voyeuristic moment in which the audience has been granted a quick peek.
Suddenly the dancers stop touching themselves and form a group stage left. The transition is abrupt and unapologetic, and sets the stage for a post-modern experience where anything can happen. The anything that happens is a bunch of random musings, problematic sore muscles, virtuoso tap solos, and child swimming pool games. These happenings are eventually taken into the audience, crashing and burning that once sacred fourth wall. Sailer and Hanson have a duet where Sailer requests a lap dance, and Hanson shows us a perfectly extended line. These two seem to be trying to get something just right, and have a start and stop, back and forth rhythm between them that feels fresh and unrehearsed, yet still investigated.
This was the second time that I have seen this work, and must admit that I enjoyed it’s previous showing at Daughters of Mudson. While the bones of the piece were the same, the first time was left more open with a subtle, mysterious, even ambiguous sexuality/sensuality. This latter showing was more bold and even confrontational in its sexual nature, with the dancers boldly touching themselves and indulging in charged cinematic kisses. I love that this work is being explored with different intentions and appreciate seeing different versions, but for me, the quieter version spoke more loudly.
dog & pony begins with Sailer and Hanson moving in perfect unison, relaxed yet specific, their two bodies orbiting the space and one another, yet never once colliding or merging. Both of these artists are extremely skilled at navigating between the world of I am a performer and I am a human being. They are able to causally speak to both one another and the audience, while moving or not, in a way that is organic, at times humorous, ironic and poignant, all while maintaining a performative sensibility. They also are skilled at shocking, or at least surprising, the audience, whether it be Kitty devouring the popsicle that was just down her skirt, or a naked Sam being guided by Kitty in a self exploration of his own body, popsicles in each obedient hand. These moments are successful not necessarily because of their shock value, but because they merge within the context of the work as a whole, and provide more clarity and depth. My only wish for this work was for the dancers to, at one point in the latter stages, break the unaffected start stop controlled structure and let pure physicality take over. Yes, I know it is old fashioned, even indulgent of me to want it, but I do. There was a lengthy Chopin section where I started to disengage and tire from the repetitive structure. Perhaps this was the intention, and I should learn more patience, but I would have loved to see remnants of the fluid, soft yet driven opening duet explored again.
The piece starts to finish with Sam reminding Kitty with what comes next, you don’t remember, do you?, and includes Sam putting on some clothes once again (Kitty’s shorts). The two eventually make their way over to the loading door, which they pull open. And then suddenly, we the audience, are left in the theatre, watching the two performers walk away into the real world; a snow covered freezing parking lot. Once again the stage life is blended with real life, and this time it is pure magic.
Erica Womack is a choreographer based in Salt Lake City. She teaches at SLCC.