Saturday September 20, 2014 at the Riverside Recital Hall, Sean Thomas Boyt and Andy Thierauf, a new dance and percussion duo, made a fabulous contribution to the world of music and dance. They showcased new repertoires mostly composed by Thierauf and choreographed by Boyt. Both were fully capable soloists who showed their abundant skills in a compelling collaboration of contemporary dance, electronics, and percussion music.
How do dance and percussion fit together? After seeing this performance, I could state that the mixture of music and dance are well matched. If/then, the second piece of the program, impressed the audience. It was composed by Will Huff and Andy Thierauf, words written by Katherine Sherman, and choreographed by Sean Thomas Boyt. The instrumentation of this piece consists of acoustic and electronic percussion as well as found objects (real-life objects used in a musical way). The piece began with subtle conversation, “if…then…” and built up to a chaotic section that seemed like a golden section of the music. (The golden section is the climax point situated roughly two-thirds of the way through a piece, and determined by a mathematical proportion). Dance and percussion corresponded in ways such as: slow movement of dancing with slow tempo and soft dynamic on percussion; and faster tempo and louder dynamic with faster movement of dancing. All of this contextualized, the fast rhythmic flow of words and the intense conversation that happened at the same time.
This duo made me reflect back upon two influential American post-war artists, John Cage and Merce Cunningham, who introduced the idea of contemporary dance/music collaboration. Both artists radically shaped the view of music and dance at mid-century. It might possible that Cage and Cunningham are a big inspiration for Thierauf and Boyt. Speaking of Cage, Thierauf began the concert with Cage’s The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs, which could support my opinion about the influence. This piece requires a performer to sing and play rhythms on the closed piano. Thierauf did a very good job of the singing and drumming, of course! Unfortunately, it seems not many in the audience knew the piece, or understood Cage’s music-as-life premise, because there was no clapping after it ended. They both also had original solo pieces that they composed and choreographed. For instance, Thierauf’s Drumming on Ursonate used multiple percussion (two bongos and four tom-toms) and spoken words. Boyt’s The Prince was fascinating piece of choreography to a fixed audio track. He lip-synced during the first part of the piece and then in the second part, he danced very liberated to the end.
Besides these interesting things, the duo also used the computer program (Max/MSP) on one piece called Duet for Soloist. Thierauf played on snare drum and Boyt used the program to control the sound directions and pitches by changing the motion of his hands and arms. They performed both individually and as a pair, a paradox that worked well and seemed quite captivating to the audience. Other than that, there were two videos, which worked well to keep the audience’s attention during the stage changing. One of the videos was called Excuse me and was one of my favorite pieces of the night. I was impressed to watch them dancing together in an elevator, while Thierauf created body percussion using surfaces such as the floor and the wall. The concert ended with a piece for vibraphone and dance titled Elbows, Alloy: Fixed.
Boyt and Thierauf have started their duo recently, but obviously they both have shared the same purpose and worked well together in order to produce creative multimedia artworks. This concert was the last show on their Dance/Percussion Tour, which took them across the state of Iowa in Fall 2014.