La La La Human Steps
Salt
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Édouard Lock's La La La Human Steps dance troupe is well known for its really bad name and really good shows. I'm guessing the performance in question is called Salt because that is what sweat and other bodily fluids taste of. In any case, this piece is worth seeing if only for its first three minutes, during which a single woman, two light beams and a black stage make for a performance both striking in its simplicity and memorable for its ingenuity. That phrasing smacks of cliché, of what every reviewer might say of something he or she liked seeing. But it's true. The dancer enters the round circle of light and plays with the edges of visibility it imposes, immediately arresting the audience's attention, reminding them what "riveted" really means, metaphorically. It is not often that a dancer will put so much work into a performance that, in truth, is only half seen. And this device works; it has stuck with me.

In general, Salt's success as a piece is most evident when the simplicity of the set is "let be." There is some use of curious round projection screens, black and white films of babies' faces, close-ups of the eyes of older humans, and some color "filmed performances" of women smiling and dozing off in what seems to be a drug haze. These tend to detract from rather than help along the dance-narrative, which, truth be told, is not really narrative though it seems to want to be. Some metallic drop curtains to the side and back of the stage provide an interesting and, again, simple way to make new space of the stage's black square. Sometimes the three musicians performing the piece appear in front of, sometimes behind these "screens."

The music--piano, cello and electric guitar, augmented at times with experimental--sounding tape loops (some of the musical composition for the piece was, by the way, done by Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine)--is perfect. It is at most times spare, treading perfectly the complicated line between too much and not enough. Then it erupts into too loud--making audience members cover their ears or jump in their seats--and subsides again into just right.

The movement is acrobatic, emphasizing the beauty and strength of the human form (though this is more the truth with regard to the performances of female dancers, as the men wear what appear to be a dance-version of the business suit while the women wear the more traditional close fitting leotard-y thing, and toe shoes, and the performances are suited to the outfit, as it were). It is also frenzied, repetitive, puzzling and intriguing--sometimes the combination of the looping music and the repetitive dance, frenzied though they might be, come close to lulling the viewer to sleep... or maybe this lull I feel is a dream state or a drug haze, maybe this is what the so-called lack of "narrative" is supposed to be doing. It is certainly worth experiencing.

In the end I wished for a bit more variance of tempo: more of the slow and breathtaking moves possible with toe-shoes and well-toned dancers, less of the hair tossing and wild gesticulating, interesting and angular as they might be. The slow points are the ones that stand out in my memory, and they are in danger of being erased by the sheer volume of the more prevalent (insidious?) back and forth, up and down, male and female, what who next. I found myself thinking at one point that Salt could be imagined as the dance equivalent to Melrose Place, all slaps and sex and indecision and frequent sudden changes of mind. Just so you know, I do not think comparison with Melrose Place is something any art form should strive for, so that this analogy imposed itself in my mind sometime during the second half of the performance I take to be a weakness of the piece (or, indeed, of my mind, to be fair).

Anne Senhal