Wendy Rein and Ryan T. Smith, the longtime duo behind RAWdance, have been working for over four years on duets created for them by West Coast choreographers. Beyond the physical aspect of their collaboration, there is also the exchange of ideas between choreographers. This echo reverberates across twelve short new works, that were presented in late July at ODC Theater.
Double Exposure, the title of the piece, is a nod to this echoing. The repetition of an echo is complicated by the distortion of overlapping vibrations. Instead of struggling to bring such an image or sound into focus, it is a chance to relish in the movement of ideas and images without necessarily distilling them into answers. In watching the compilation I allowed myself to get lost in the questions. I share a few of them here.
An introduction of sorts, masterminded by Joe Goode to orient the audience to the project. But what is fact and what is fiction? How reliable are our two narrators when the script is by a third?
As the time ticks down the dancers move into a frenetic dance that is complimentary but not synchronized. What are the limits of a duet? How would this be different with additional performers? As a solo?
And then to a piece that plays with gender, flipped gender, and non-gendered movement, but is also sexy in a certain way. What makes a dance sexy? When is a dance more about arms and legs than about torso? How does our interpretation of movement vary depending on what parts of the body are the predominant focus?
The duo transforms into twins conjoined at the thigh. What does it mean to dance without grace, or to struggle or come undone in a dance? Is a duo closer to a single unit or closer to two independent subjects in a dance duet? What is the role of tension in dance, both emotionally and in theory?
Onward to a deep physicality with each other’s bodies and an attention to tempo. What is the role of gravity in dance? What does it mean to have a dance that focuses horizontally rather than vertically in space?
Shinichi and Dana Iova-Koga
Almost like an intermission, the next work is quiet and serene. Nature sounds play and the dancers become flora and fauna. One performer tree-like, with the other as a chrysalis. Both appear rooted in place. Which has more potential for movement? What would the next stage be for both entities? Is there an expected transformation?
In a departure from the previous piece, the duo wrestles and struggles. Their grunts and breath become the soundtrack after “I Got You Babe” fades. Are they reacting to stimuli and what could that possibly be? Is breath driving the movement or is movement driving the breath?
Next, in jumpsuits to a Philip Glass-sounding score, they are apart and then come together. It is driven by rhythm and pace, and I can’t help thinking of industry. Their faces are neutral. Is there such a thing as a neutral face? A neutral body? Are they in synch like a machine or are they alienated in their labor?
David Roussève (with video by Cari Ann Shim Sham)
The screen asks the audience, “What can a dance do?” Can a dance make you feel? Can a dance make you think? Both come up as the video describes and shows police brutality and Black Lives Matter. Are there things the body can express or make sense of? How is that different than sight and sound? When can a body vocabulary describe ideas that words can’t?
casebolt and smith
With this male/female duet creating a duet for two other male/female artists, the distancing from heteronormative narratives or meaning assignment can be felt. How do fast versus slow movements register in dance? What about vertical versus horizontal movement?
Faces play a role in this next piece, as do signals of lethargy and energy. When does the tiredness or energy that the dancers express in their body become a signal about a certain mental state? How do these phases appear to be in tandem with an age or life phase?
A prom finale, complete with formalwear and set to a country style cover of David Bowie’s “Modern Love.” It is the most classic duet presented, with heteronormative male/female roles, including lifts. It does so with tongue in cheek, and a skepticism on the dancers’ faces. When is a dance self-conscious? How is humor conveyed in dance?
Megan Brian is the Assistant Director of Education and Public Practice at SFMOMA.