Last night, Portland’s tEEth, a self-styled contemporary dance and performance art company lead by Angelle Hebert & Phillip Kraft, brought “Home Made”, to the Rose Wagner. The engagement (presented by Dance Theatre Coaltion) continues today and Saturday.
“Home Made” was an hour long love-dance from hell, which began rather innocuously. A naked man and woman tousled with a camera under a silver silk sheet that blanketed them and the rest of the stage. The scrim flickered and what the camera saw was projected on to the back wall. The audience was taken for a ride —mostly sweet and a little suggestive — up and down legs, arms, backs, and buttocks. This live video play, was scored by mostly sung live accompaniment from another male-female (Luke Matter and Cali Ricks) pair standing stage left.
After returning to the opening shot, where the two dancers stared into the lens as the crowns of their heads connected, the camera flickered off. Some tricks of light and fabric comprised a transition, where the dancers dressed and made shadows as they stood up one-by-one under the semi-opaque drape. The blanket was removed and they were revealed, slowly turning in a tight embrace. We were no more than ten or fifteen minutes in, and several drastic shifts in tone had already occurred —from the playfulness of a couple and a camera in bed, to the backlit Las Vegas formality of Nikolais or Pilobolus — and now they were unmasked finally as real people, and sent into a kind of wooden, self-destructive expression of heterosexuality that everyone who watches much dance is pretty familiar with. I was impressed that they had taken the audience through so many habituated ways of seeing dance in such a short time. It kept us in suspense about who these people were, but it also kept me interested.
Then, abuse. Angry, brittle partnering, with lots of grabbing and dragging of mouths and jaws ensued. They took off their clothes and continued with the same. There were microphones to be wailed into, to be smashed into bodies, and to be manipulated by an unseen sound mixer. The dancing developed abusively and formally; the man (Noel Plemmons) got tangled up in cords and the woman (Keely McIntyre) did a kind of broken doll grande allegro around him. At one point the manipulated sounds from the other couple, the musicians, broke the collective focus on the dance, as they seemed to kiss, microphones both ostensibly in mouth.
There was much more sound and fury that I could try to recall. At some point they ended up putting their clothes back on and standing in a pool of square light to suggest a posed photograph of a couple. I kept wondering what I had missed. Yes, relationships between men and women can go very bad. I already knew that. But I wanted to get to know this couple particularly, and I never got to. The choreography was more concerned with some other agenda I never really felt invited to. I heard the unpleasant noises and saw that the music and the dance had been integrated to some effect. I saw, that almost as though it was an obligation, breasts and penis had each been manhandled at least once by partners’ hands. All of these things seemed like goals being checked off of a list. And yet, as hard as both the very competent performers were working, I didn’t know who they were supposed to be or why this was happening. I was left to wonder why the dancers had submitted themselves to this.
Sam Hanson holds a B.U.S. from the University of Utah and choreographs/performs throughout SLC.