Staged in the large backroom of the Crescent Ballroom, directed by Jessica Rajko,
'i'm not as think as you drunk i am' was a multi-phased exploration of drinking, movement and the impulses guiding our social choices.
Opening the show, the four principle dancers start in a tight cluster on top of the small tables littering the open floor, walking forward as the tables get moved from back to front in a constant flow. Immediately, the tone for the piece is set with a bright pairing of a 'partytime!' tabletop dance and a banging pop soundtrack. The first paired dance cleverly used the ubiquitous red Solo cup as a prop and signifier.
Two performers stand on the tabletops and repeat a series of dance movements. This first recognizable dance performance explored the sloppy urgency of drunken movements, while seeking the clean visual of doubled movement; sometimes successfully, sometimes devolving into a cluttered phrase.
The tables serve both as mini-stages, drawing the audience's attention to a specific point across the amorphous backstage space, and a clever way to shield dancers who need to fade into the background. While the device works at some moments in the performance, the constant table shifting by the dancers begins to draw attention without necessarily bringing meaning to the performance.
Thematically, there is an interesting conversation happening between the dancers, the perception of sobriety or drunkenness, and the ways we are permissive of certain actions when a person is intoxicated. The performers, an elegant mix of age, gender and race, consistently interact with each other in the mode of revelers, egging each other on and often mimicking the chemical camaraderie of partygoers.
Billed as a dance to 'share the more intimate and ever-evolving relationships' we have with alcohol, the movements in the first section stayed closer to drinking than to drunk. Interestingly, perhaps predictably, the packed house always responded with laughter when watching a recognizably drunken movement.
A beautiful solo performance leads the dance from gaiety toward a harsher, harder movement expression. The tabletop dances become more frantic, the movement more erratic- at points recognizable as artistic directive, sometimes seemingly driven by the performers themselves. The peak of the first act brings each of the dancers onto one of the tables at center, music pulsing as each performer attempts to control a pseudo-throne, while others throw cups and make noise, cheering and whistling. It’s a bright note, effectively signaling the teetering shift into dissolution that marks all such party timelines.
A humorous, if achingly awful ad-lib karaoke session by each performer serves as interlude. The final two sections felt the most thought-out, and felt the most powerful section of the performance. With a long sequence of beautifully rendered interplay between each of the dancers, the second section leaves behind the table and cup devices, and instead uses paired phrases between the dancers to explore aggression, desire and despair. In the last section, the dancers begin to draw toward stillness with a gentle interweaving of each of the four - now stripped to their undergarments- on the floor.
But Rajko has a point to make with this story. As the dancers draw physically closer to each other with their limbs interwoven, a strange bestiary of other bodies begins to move toward them. The duo consists of an underwear-clad woman in a horse mask, and a man masked in fan-girl. To the music of DJ Fabulous, the nearly naked dancers rise and stand toward the back of the space in a dense huddle, staring directly, almost aggressively at the audience. It serves both as a fitting end to the frenetic piece, and a challenge to the audience to engage the subtext of the dance.
Image by Tim Trumble
Review by Danae Barnes
Edited by Julie Akerly