First, if you haven’t been to Bryant-Lake Bowl for a show, you should go. The tickets are cheap, and you can drink and eat good food while you watch. More to the point, some of the most interesting artists in town—from avant-garde duo Hijack to James Sewell muse Sally Rousse—perform new work on the BLB’s tiny, quirky stage. Shreds is no exception. Purest Spiritual Pigs leader Helena Thompson invited such local stars as Jaime Carrera, Hijack, and Dylan Skybrook to choreograph to the leftover bits from PSP’s latest record. The result was a lot of miscellaneous fun, unified only by the rhythmic grind of PSP’s music.
I say miscellaneous because a good chunk of the work here felt one-off, partial. There’s nothing wrong with this, and it may even be intentional (at the BLB, messing with audience expectations is de rigueur). Still, Jessica Cressey’s clever shaving-cream legs and Sarah Gordon’s mysterious cardboard signs left me wanting more. Hijack’s strenuously physical section—no props, no context to speak of, from a pair who routinely drag the kitchen sink into their work—felt too tightly wound to end as abruptly as it did. Susan Scalf and Natasha Hassett’s unsafe “Safety Dance” and Dylan Skybrook’s “In the Manner of Flowers” (more below) suffered from a lack of context, trailing into the forgettable despite some riveting moments.
But it will be hard to forget Jaime Carrera’s “Olvidame.” Carrera appeared in nothing but high heels and a long black Cher wig (leave the kiddies at home), which he swung back and forth and draped over himself in eroticized Cousin Itt fashion. Carrera—a muscular bundle with a paunch that he can entirely suck in or blow out to bun-in-the-oven size at will—then tried on a series of attitudes, from the bodybuilder’s studied crunch to the pageant queen’s cocked hip to the Madonna’s skyward gaze. Disquieting and creepy, yet mesmerizing and oddly lovely, “Olvidame” stood out from the rest of the evening’s offerings.
Dylan Skybrook’s “In the Manner of Flowers” was also a stand-out, though less so. Here, it’s Skybrook’s movement style, not what he did with it, that was notable. Skybrook is an oil-slick mover, someone who looks like he could do a wicked robot dance, but he applied this preternatural smoothness to pedestrian moves. Well, not quite pedestrian: he gestured like a silent-film star, then like a distraught street person predicting the end. He’s a preacher, a cartoon, a politician; he moved like your most demonstrative math teacher. All this strange, not-quite comprehensible communication fascinates, but in the setting of Shreds, there was no context to help us get further.
It’s good that Shreds left me wanting more. Thompson spoke of making Shreds a regular occurrence; that’s great. But I’ll also be on the lookout for longer work—split or full evenings—from these artists. I’d like to go further than "fun" and "interesting."
Shreds plays again tonight at the Bryant-Lake Bowl.