Amy O’Neal’s “convenience” offers humor, originality, and surprise
By GUS SOLOMONS, JR.
A troupe of young collaborators from Seattle calling itself “locust” performed at Joyce SoHo for only two days, October 14 and 15. More’s the pity, because they crammed so much inventiveness, wittiness, and youthful energy into their hour-long dance-music-video show, “convenience,” that we can’t wait to see them back in New York soon.
The company’s founders, performer and composer Zeke Keeble and dancer and choreographer Amy O’Neal, who conceived and directed “convenience,” are joined by performing collaborators Ellie Sandstrom, also a dancer, and Troy Miszklevitz and Gabriel Baron, both trained as actors. The piece is a continuous array of short, whimsical, and revelatory movement episodes, infused with humor, freshness, and surprise, deftly performed with unmannered grace and gutsy abandon.
At the start, we see two video projections—made by O’Neal—on the rear wall. The one to our left shows a warped rectangular cavity. The one on the right shows a sitting room with an orange couch and plush carpet. Sandstrom sprawls on the couch, while onstage, O’Neal and Keeble play a rhythmic tattoo by twisting their Velcro-soled shoes on a Velcro pad—a higher-tech version of popping bubble wrap.
Keeble then becomes a one-man percussion orchestra, setting up audio loops of his box-drum rhythms and adding vocal beat box accents into a microphone. Sandstrom, on video, grooves to the music and changes into her costume. Then, onstage, tall, blond Miszklevitz; short, sturdy Baron, and Sandstrom join Keeble in a rowdy quartet of sliding falls, loping runs, martial arts moves, and subtle finger flexing—unusual choices, done with striking commitment by this attractive, fit-looking crew.
The video to our left contains scenes of the company outdoors in traffic, doing bits of the same quartet they do onstage; a parody movie trailer for a rock ’em, sock ’em super action film called “Super Action,” a TV ad announced by Reggie Watts, sporting a huge Afro, for a human dolly that eliminates the need for troublesome walking––“walking is folly, when there’s dolly!”––and a hilarious vignette in which the team manipulates Miszklevitz like a puppet, making breakfast.
The dancing climaxes in a brisk unison duet for the women, which features powerful, low-to-the-ground moves, like break dancers doing Pilates. Throughout, the dance structure recapitulates themes while adding new material. Then, like a magician revealing his tricks, the performers disassemble the video sitting room, which turns out to have been a live shot of the setup backstage. They array the carpet squares along the onstage walls, and do a final movement canon, each framed by a luminous rectangle courtesy of imaginative lighting designer Julie Keenan. As each one finishes moving, his or her light fades in turn, and the wonderful “locust” community dissolves.