“Duet Love”

Tahni Holt: Love and seduction, slowly

"Duet Love" at the Time-Based Art Festival starts deliberately and minimally and then starts to get nice and messy

Tahni Holt’s Duet Love is a confrontational joy to watch. It’s testing beginning is compositionally minimalist, but the second half justifies that glacial start.

The dance starts slow. Very slow. The four dancers languorously fall into a cycle of poses and hold them for minutes at a time without moving. The emptiness of the stage and the minimal soundtrack underscore what the slowness is saying—this is a dance without any hidden parts. Everything is simple, solid, and staring you right in the face. The dance is put together like Japanese carpentry.

The poses progress through a familiar, pop vocabulary of gendered, pseudo-sexual declaration—more “I am here, look at me” than “come hither.” Some are culturally specific, like the one I mentally called “the Marky Mark“. Others are general enough to remind us that, given a standard human body, the gestural range of seduction is finite.

Keyon Gaskin and Lucy Yim in Tahni Holt's "Duet Love"/Photo by Eugenie Frerichs

Keyon Gaskin and Lucy Yim in Tahni Holt’s “Duet Love”/Photo by Eugenie Frerichs

The slow start made it seem as though our attention was being stretched and limbered like the dancers had done on stage before the show began. Being forced to take it all in, sit with it, look again, look away, and look back. And repeat.

As the later transformations arrived, I understood the need for preparations like that. However, watching the audience through this section, I think the pauses might have been at least as effective if had they lasted about three quarters as long. Think of the spareness of butoh or noh—there’s a tension that carries over the gaps, a fullness while waiting for the drumstick to strike again. Here, the initial slowness didn’t necessarily require that energy, I think it would have been better for it.