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tEEth's Grub

by Jacqueline Barba
March 21, 2009
Joyce Soho
155 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10012
212-431-9233
GRUB by tEEth
www.rubberteeth.com
Concept/Direction/Set Design: Angelle Herbert and Phillip Kraft
Choreography: Angelle Herbert
Original Music: Phillip Kraft
Performers: Gina Frabotta, Elizabeth Grossberg, Lee Kyle, Melissa Murray, Celeste Olivares, Noel Plemmons
Video Design/Effects/Tech Direction: Phillip Kraft
Last Saturday, walking into the Joyce SoHo for the final NYC showing of tEEth's GRUB, I was expecting a very specific sort of performance. I was expecting a performance that would be discomfiting, eerie and unfamiliar; a performance that would rely on multimedia to drive home its point, and that would seek to shock its audience. In fact, the performance turned out to be and to do all of those things. But — this bit I wasn't expecting — it also turned out to be very, very good.

When I say the performance was very good, I mean that it was effective — it was enjoyable to watch, but that it also provoked an emotional experience, something deeper than the thought "this is weird." The choreography was not self-conscious. It was serious, demanding, dark at times, terrifying at times, and still not without humor. The resulting performance was totally engrossing, totally entertaining, and totally impressive. It was art. I am not a steadfast fan of modern dance. I find much of to be affected, sometimes silly, ultimately uninspiring. And so it is a big thing for me to make the following assertion: the next time tEEth visits your hometown, you should make it your mission to see them.

GRUB is a busy piece, and a complicated one; it is, essentially, a series of solos, duets, trios, quartets and quintets, all of which dance around ideas of perspective and perception. Video is cleverly utilized to juxtapose the jarring difference between what we see right in front of us and what we see on screen. It helps us to recognize the distancing, dramatizing effect of projected image as compared to live action. A strong, swinging duet represents sex, or a fight; a clever quartet is a display of masculine power and feminine persistence—or, it is a joke in the vaudeville tradition.

Among my favorite selections from the piece was the aforementioned quartet. In it, two female dancers sing, almost shout, a simple melody, while their male partners do everything they can to manipulate the sound by toying with the women's bodies. To start, the men stick their fingers in the singers' mouths; they kiss them; they flick their fingers across the ladies' lips; they shake them by the shoulders. As the music gains momentum, the males intensify their efforts to silence the sound. The women are flipped upside down, swung in a semicircle, laid flat on the floor. The men step on their stomachs. In the final pose, each male dancer lifts his partner so that she has to balance atop him, clutching his ankles to hold herself up, balancing on her toes against his shoulders. Throughout all this, the sound is certainly affected — it gets louder, softer, screechier, whinier, tinnier and tinier, but it is never silenced. The strong, loud persistence of the female singer/dancers is impressive, as are the seemingly effortless physical stunts of all four dancers.

Toward the end of the piece the dancers line up and run a sort of assembly line of grotesque motion. There are five distinct motions in total, each accompanied by a startling sound: a screech, a scream, a grunt, a moan, and a groan. For four bars at a time, each dancer performs his or her assigned motion-sound; and all dancers are enacting their assigned movement simultaneously, so the audience sees a disturbing line of shaking, pulling, hand-wringing, stomach-twisting, head-flapping and hand-slapping. The combination of so much disparate, unnatural movement, and so much unpleasant noise, all to be absorbed at once, is quite a shock, one that combines amusement with fear and an almost innate worry. The tempo of the background music (original score by Phillip Kraft) increases, and raises the intensity of all this grotesqueness, and the audience feels a building tension: what is this moving toward? What will come of it? In the final moments the dancers extend and exaggerate their assigned movements. Strobe lights intensify these moments, freezing them in time, adding a new element of horror through lighting, and ultimately raising my blood pressure and inciting in me a profound sense of panic. It was startling, unexpected, utterly terrifying. I loved it, and I hope for the opportunity to see it again.
tEEth's Grub

tEEth's Grub

Photo © & courtesy of Tim Summers


tEEth's Grub

tEEth's Grub

Photo © & courtesy of Tim Summers


tEEth's Grub

tEEth's Grub

Photo © & courtesy of Tim Summers


tEEth's Grub

tEEth's Grub

Photo © & courtesy of Tim Summers


tEEth's Grub

tEEth's Grub

Photo © & courtesy of Tim Summers


tEEth's Grub

tEEth's Grub

Photo © & courtesy of Aaron Busch


tEEth's Grub

tEEth's Grub

Photo © & courtesy of Aaron Busch


tEEth's Grub

tEEth's Grub

Photo © & courtesy of Aaron Busch


tEEth's Grub

tEEth's Grub

Photo © & courtesy of Tim Summers

ExploreDance.com is sponsored by
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ExploreDance.com
ExploreDance.com is sponsored by
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