Two chairs and a lot of odd behavior. That best describes “Tool is Loot,” a non-collaborative collaboration between choreographers/soloists Wally Cardona and Jennifer Lacey.
Performed Friday night at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the 90-minute dance celebrated “foreignness” for foreignness sake. The outcome, at first, was amusing, bewildering and poetic. But after an hour, “Tool is Loot” felt tortuously odd and drawn out to a level that was dreary.
The piece came together at EMPAC with the help of composer Jonathan Bepler. The two choreographers worked on their portions of the dance alone — Cardona in Brooklyn and Lacey in Paris.
Their duet at first fell together nicely, as Cardona and Lacey possess distinctive stage personalities. Cardona is dark and dynamic — hardly holding still for a moment — while Lacey is fair and aloof — cool and still in her approach.
And at its start, she appeared to be the tool in the title. The dance began with Lacey staring down a folding chair. She stood over it, looking down, and then sat with her eyes glued to its back. She then started to use the chair to hold her up — first a foot, then as a lever for her whole body. This was all done with a voice describing “the object” that was clearly Lacey herself.
She gave way, melding into the upstage darkness, to Cardona, who moved swiftly — shifting his focus, speed and direction rapidly. He skipped, tiptoed and whirled his arms around. His fearless thrust perked up the academic opening. The deft Cardona expressed much emotion in just one look or gesture.
Lacey did have her moments, too — especially when she flirted with the chair, making love to it with both her words and her body.
Cardona had his own sexual encounters. He was both the hairy mustached man and the willing prince whose carnal episode in a night garden was frightening and bittersweet.
But then, “Tool is Loot” lost its way. Lacey, now appearing in a white sailor mini-dress, walked about. Cardona, in German lederhosen, sat staring at a blank white wall. She joined him, and they swung back and forth until they stood.
Lacey’s suspended leg probed the air, while Cardona stepped in place. They disappeared, and a circle, like a full moon, and the stars, seen by the swooning prince, were illuminated on the wall. Bepler’s music — fits and starts of horns and drums — gained momentum and volume. The lights rose, and it was mercifully completed.
Interestingly, this conceptual celebration of strangeness used common objects — the chair and the human body and the pervasive moon and stars — and the universal desire to be physically satisfied. Unfortunately, it will take much reconsideration and editing to coax “Toot is Loot” into a satisfying experience for an audience.
“Tool is Loot” will be repeated at 8 tonight at EMPAC. Tickets and more information are available at 276-3921 or empac.rpi.edu/events.