O(h) - 75 Minutes
Choreographed and Performed by Joel Smith and Liz Casebolt - casebolt and smith
Music: John Fogerty, Offenbach, Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim, Hate Harrison
Music Editing: Reggie Alvey, Joel Smith
Costume Design: Joel Smith
Lighting Design: Karin Olson
Premiered at Joyce Soho, Inbound Festival. New York, NY 2010
1st Video (Trailer): Southern Theater. Minneapolis, MN 2010
2nd Video (Excerpt): Actor's Company Theater. Los Angeles, CA 2012
O(h), casebolt and smith’s seminal evening-length work, is a talking dance that describes itself. Through scripted text and chatty conversation, improvised and set choreography, we offer honest insights into our limitations as a duet company and our fear of becoming unoriginal. The dance evolves from demonstrations of what we can, can’t and won’t do into intricately sequenced dance phrases layered with popular culture references and iconic dance images of the past. In a variety of ways, the dance reveals what it's doing, how its self-consciousness drives us to question our choices and the many ways we attempt to produce, and clarify, meaning. Through improvisational and choreographic structures, we question how contemporality gets defined, both directly and through the kinds of explorations our episodic sections vary from one to the next. We sing, we speak, we discuss, we profess, we confess, we lie, we represent and re-present. We also address hot button issues surrounding representations of gender and sexuality and look at how power operates in relation to authorship and appropriation. We undress the politics of ownership by borrowing other people’s ideas, while at the same time revealing our anxiety about performing said ideas without permission. We also make visible the laboring body, through structured improvisation, accumulation and repetition of phrases and text being built inside of the piece. “O(h)” is also quite humorous, and relies heavily on the multi-dimensional friendship and collaborative rapport we have as a duo, our quick banter and skill at improvising on the fly, and the trust and shared sense of timing we have together. While this work is very talky, it is also highly physical and demands a deep level of stamina to execute.
O(h)'s success depends on the relationship we build with viewers. Its pacing, tone and improvisational moments adjust, respond, and lead to creative choices made through speaking and dancing. It is, in other words, an ongoing research project. “O(h)’s” impact on the field is visible through the teachings of dance scholars and the writing of critics. Alan Ulrich of the SF Chronicle writes, “The couple, by the way, while skewering conventional thinking about dance, glide through the space with a blithe, airy quality that sustains them through the evening, and they integrate the spoken word and the gesture as well as anybody I have seen since David Gordon a generation ago.” Toronto Star’s Michael Crabb writes, “For those who’ve suffered at the receiving end of casebolt and smith’s target subject, it’s like a breath of fresh air and also side-achingly funny. But it’s the clever way the pair integrate themes of gender identity and stereotyping and pose questions about artistic appropriation and the very nature of “contemporary” that add texture to “O(h)” and leave lots of food for thought. It’s a dance fan’s must-see.” And Gia Kourlas of the New York Times writes, “O(h) involves the choreographers pairing gestural movement sequences with words and proposing big picture questions about appropriation in dance and what makes a work contemporary.”
The last 10-13 minutes of "O(h)" is improvised. To give you context, here is an alternate ending of "O(h)" from our six-week (18-shows) run at the Actor's Company Theater in Los Angeles, 2012.