Thoughts on Transition from a dancer and long time friend of Mr Watts Oct 16, 2009
by Amy O'Neal
In the dance classes I teach, I often spend a lot of time talking about transitions. The way you get from one place to another is often more important than the arrival. The nature of the transition can give deeper meaning and impact to where you came from and where you end up. Without thinking about how you get from one place to another, you are just going through the motions. And what is true for dance is true for life. (Insert smirk right here.)
Reggie Watts and Tommy Smith have created an hour long unapologetic performance experience that strings together one transition moment after another. It is an interesting concept to take on in a time based art form and a ripe opportunity for thwarting audience expectation. From the beginning we are set up to believe one thing will happen, then something else completely unexpected occurs instead. One example of this that I cannot stop laughing about, is a video of Reggie making out with with a super hot girl in a car. The kissing is steamy and as a viewer you are really getting into the whole thing. Who doesn't enjoy watching two hot people making out like they are honestly enjoying themselves? Then bing! The Nabisco logo pops up in the corner and we move on to the next thing.
I have known Reggie for the past decade and we have been involved in each others work off and on for about that long. I am happy to have watched him grow as an artist and lucky to have been a part of some of his experiments along the way. I worked with Tommy and Reggie on their last theater experience Disinformation. I understand where they are coming from and saw some similar ideas and themes in Transition that we were working with in Disinformation. However, despite this inside scoop that I have, I was continually surprised by Transition. Tommy and Reggie are really starting to develop their world in a much more sophisticated way. The use of video was a smart mix of simple and complex. The video harness contraption used by Beth was a fantastic example of an expensive idea used very simply and effectively. At first I thought that I wanted to see it used more because it is such a great idea with a lot of potential. But today, I feel that it was used for a specific purpose, for a moment, and that is the nature of this work. It is not about taking any one moment and over developing it. (There is a little bit of milking here and there however, which is to be expected with Mr Watts and I mean that in the best way. Sasquatch!) The show is about thwarting our desire for theme and variation and resolution and I am glad that they all didn't come out with the camera contraption on, or bring it back out later.
If I were to be critical about anything in the show, it would be the ending. I know they had some technical difficulties last night (that I was not aware of in the moment), but I felt like they didn't entirely own it like everything else in the show. In these dubious moments, the question lies between the execution or the content itself. Because of everything else that happened in the show, we believe that Tommy and Reggie can make pretty much anything work on stage because of how they do it, so maybe it was just an off night. And finally, I could listen to Reggie sing all day and all night and I am in no way downplaying this truly extraordinary gift of his, but I want to see Reggie dance more! He is really really good at it. I mean really good.
By the way, I really loved this show. I am really loving thinking about it after the fact too, which is always a good thing. Good work my friends, good work. I commend you and the way you do what you do. You are not just going through the motions and I respect that. Thank you for continuing to inspire me.
- Amy O'Neal