Together as a duo since 2007 (and occasionally working with associate artists), No Face Performance Group’s Jaime Maseda and Mark McCloughan undoubtedly have the chops to pull off quirky movement-theater works with a guiding principle of subtle motion. Find video of spaceplay or LUMP TRAFFIC and you’ll find this pair to be intriguing (if not inventive) assayers of a barely moving, yet always thinking, form.
I’m not so certain, however, that The Top is part of that usually smart and stylized catalog.
Slaves to the rhythm
With fellow not-so-much mover/dancer Melissa Krodman, Maseda and McCloughan enter the stage – to the struggling electro-funk of one song, “The Top,” repeated over and over with a clanging intro and industrial outro that gives the music the feel of a lab-rat cue: Bounce up and down with shrugging shoulders. One dancer comes out, then another. Sometimes two dancers stand at center stage and bounce. Sometimes only one dancer stands at one end of the stage and bounces. The threesome also always stare directly at the audience with soft, friendly, knowing smiles that sort-of force you to stare back and smile, lest you look like a crank.
For 40 minutes.
Those knowing smiles probably actively engaged the notion of confrontation, an invitation to look into the artists’ roles as people rather than just performers (the trio wore jeans, cut-off tees, and button-down short-sleeve shirts). The piece also played with the idea of the artist watching the audience in a broken-fourth-wall fashion.
The spare what-you-see-is-what-you-get simplicity of the “dance,” with zero subtext other than getting to know each other, became uncomfortable after a time (surely their point). I waited for something, anything else to happen. It didn’t. Each member of the trio occasionally shifted their gaze to different audience members, and at the very end, an elbow changed position and blue lighting replaced white. That’s about it.
So, it was a staring contest.
This did allow the audience to give in to the rhythm of the same song (which I never wish to hear again), bounce along, and shatter the boundary between seating and staging area, and between participation and mere anticipation. Or you could stare back. Or you could take in other elements within the room, such as scent (I focused upon a woman whose perfume was a mix of sour grapefruit and tuberose), or gaze at pate patterns (the swirl of a balding man’s scalp).
I have all the patience in the world for maximal minimalism and slow-to-no motion. I have loved more than a few John Cage musical events and Andy Warhol still-life films, so it’s not a level of impatience that makes me question The Top’s magic. Maybe, on another night of the show’s run, No Face Performance Group will shrug differently or shift collective stance in another fashion. I can’t say waiting for that shift is worth it.