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MFA Candidate in Bluetooth Troubleshooting

I'm back in school!  Surprisingly or not, it's such an ~interesting~ experience.  I take the vast majority of my classes from home, haven't touched a barre in months, and download copious amounts of PDFs in lieu of physical books on the daily.  Yet with all of this online activity, I still have trouble operating Zoom.  It'll be normal next year, right... right?

My impetus to head back into an institution was centered around getting support for my "creative research" and dance-making.  Unfortunately the world is in a different place, and I am at odds with my interest and creativity, at least where dance is concerned.  Taking a full classload and teaching undergrads *could* be fun/invigorating/tiring/draining/exhausting in a "normal" semester, but the lack of the rewarding aspects of dance has really cut into the experience.  Hopefully in my time here, I'll get to be inside of Halsey Hall with my cohort, make work on dancers other than myself, and maybe even show pieces on stage?

We'll see!

(You might be thinking, "I never signed up to be on this mailing list!" Well, you're right - I probably illegally added you.  Go ahead and scroll (and continue reading!) to the bottom of this e-mail and unsubscribe yourself.  I'll get a notification that you've unsubscribed and guilt you forever and ever.  If you're into this, check out all of my previous newsletters! I swear that I *used to* do a lot more before the good ol' pandemic rolled in!)

Featured above, my most recent (and only!?) live, in-person performance was at THE Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City.  As a partnership between Hancher, Quixotic Fusion Cirque Nouveau, and the University of Iowa Department of Dance, we held an outdoor walk-about of the auditorium's light-show-engulfed perimeter.  Viewed through aerosol-proof windows, I had the opportunity to show a new, durational (two-hour, in this case) solo practice, kirakiraidolincarnate.  This piece is part of my year-long qualifying project/process as I work myself into in the Dance MFA program... there's more dancing and a lot more writing to come!

Some video of the event can be found on Facebook or Instagram (or on STBDancing.com if you search hard enough for it.) (Or just click the link.)

Above photo by Andy Abeyta/The Gazette.
As promised last time, I have created a TikTok!  Using the power of the internet, I have exported it over to YouTube, because maybe that platform will last longer?  But maybe the real joy of TikTok is that they're so ephemeral?  Do we like dance because it's transient?  Is it possible and/or ethical to encapsulate live performance on video formats?  Does China have my search history?  All of these questions and more are squiggling around in my mind as I go into #Week10 of grad school.  This is my time to wax poetically about why and/or if movement is important in contemporary society.  Thanks for the inspiration, Ke$ha!
stb x at has also been semi-active!  Since we last talked (lol), we opened and closed our show for the Philadelphia Fringe Festival!

Our seventh annual "evening" of collaboration, Looks Like Sounds Like took the form of a three-act improvisation with Dr. Andy Thierauf on the vibraphone (or "table"/"large xylophone"/"marimba") and me on the... floor.  As an attempt at accessibility, we had an amateur audio description (with text transcription!) done by writer/dancer Kat J. Sullivan, MFA Candidate in Dance at Temple University It's highly recommended.  Bonus: We got a couple of nice reviews!

I've taken the liberty of copy-pasting lengthy excerpts of these reviews below in order to extend this e-mail.
"Asya Zlatina and Sean Thomas Boyt were among Philadelphia’s most innovative dance artists before the pandemic, and their 2020 Fringe Festival entries demonstrate their ability to keep creating in new and different ways. Combining movement with technology, sound, and collaboration, #Quarantineksvkhvkhkdvhai and Looks Like Sounds Like—from Artist House/Asya Zlatina & Dancers and stb x at, respectively—are two different yet complementary pieces well worth seeing.

[...]

stb x at is Boyt’s collaboration with percussionist Andy Thierauf. For the past eight years, the duo has collaborated on work that transcends discipline and genre. Their devotion to experimentation lends itself to Boyt’s rejection of dance’s gender norms—a graceful dancer with elegant limbs, he often performs wearing a dress. Looks Like Sounds Like is an improvisation, and a full-length piece, which feels like a treat these days. Longer dances were not unusual pre-pandemic, but ongoing closures make it tough for artists to develop, rehearse, stage, and perform them.

Filmed onstage in a theater without an audience and streaming on the artists’ website, Looks Like Sounds Like captures the current state of the performing arts. The last of its three scenes was a standout, with red lights illuminating Thierauf as he played piercing notes on a marimba while Boyt entered by rolling across the stage in a white dress with a gauzy underskirt. As the red lights turned blue and the marimba sounded haunting, dreamy tones, Boyt looked from side to side, kicked one leg, and fell forward to the floor, landing catlike on his hands. He portrayed a character torn between fantasy and nightmare, bringing to mind Blanche DuBois in the Varsouviana scene in A Streetcar Named Desire, as well as life during COVID.​"


- Melissa Strong, Broad Street Review
"Sean Thomas Boyt and Dr. Andy Thierauf are the artists behind stb x at. Boyt is the movement, Thierauf the music. Together, they created Looks Like Sounds Like for the 2020 virtual Fringe Festival.  Low lighting shrouds the stage, casting eerie shadows on both the dancer and the drum set. The sinewy Boyt appears in a strappy, flowing dress with fringed accents. Carrying out the fringe theme, a banner of shiny silver tinsel spills from drum to floor, encircling the kit like a blingy necklace.

This number is a study in contrasts. Movement vs. stillness. Sound vs. silence. Boyt’s flailing, seemingly nonchalant arm movements contrast Thierauf’s controlled, measured strikes with the sticks. Boyt’s body is a contrast, too: The fluidity in their upper torso, their head moving like a bobblehead in slow motion, is in marked contrast to the often angular motions of their legs, kicking out at right angles, feet flexed.  In what may be an homage to a background in ballet, Boyt tosses in two demi pliés in first position. This nod to traditional dance provides yet another contrast in what is anything but a traditional performance.  Thierauf is as diverse and creative with sound as Boyt is with style. He produces a smorgasbord of sounds with different objects and techniques: scratching the drum head (which may leave you scratching your own), tapping with drumsticks, slowly drawing a violin bow, and more.

A few notes about the video format: The camera at times focuses on the dancer or the drummer, choosing the focal point for you. While you may be tempted to fast-forward to another section of the video, don’t. Watch it from start to finish, as you would at a live, in-person performance. I suggest you stream the video to a large screen for full effect and also recommend using headphones. In my case, a noisy air conditioner made it difficult to pick up sound nuances. The video is also available with voiced-over audio descriptions, provided by Kat Sullivan*, for accessibility.
One benefit of the virtual format: It looks like I’ll get to watch the entire production again in order to absorb it all."


- Darcy Grabenstein, thINKingDANCE
One of our Zoom performances in August for the Dissolving Doors Online Festival also got a write-up, so I will include that in order to make it seem like we are more productive than we actually are.
"Next comes a segment that fuses movement and percussion featuring Sean Thomas Boyt and Andy Thierauf. As Thierauf provides accompaniment through a wide array of instruments scattered about the studio, Boyt moves from place to place, pushing the expanses of the space to its limit and infusing the entire room with energy. As the improv progresses it slowly turns into a duet, rather than abide by the standard performer/accompanist dynamic, as Thierauf moved from drum to drum crisscrossing paths with Boyt, the two weaving dynamically together throughout the space."

- Winfield Maben, Philadelphia Dance Journal
As I am apt to do, I have cobbled together a repackage album from this summer's closet photo essay.  New, improved, and in full-color, closet(bleu) is a shorter, more vibrant rendition of the epic storytelling I did in the original iteration.  Backed by a blue backdrop (it's a wall.), this is yet another study of costuming oneself in glitz and glamo(u)r.  The paper-doll poses and static gestures further my research into performance-as-self.  Or: more profile picture options.

See more on STBDancing.com
As I continue my education, I have the opportunity to collaborate with my rock star colleagues.  Over the past month, Darrius Legrand Gray II and I showed our duet ​The grass is my boyfriend ​if I can't touch anyone on the banks of the Iowa River.  I also set a new solo on fellow grad Katie Phelan: Placard of my Heart.  Just like everything else in my world, you can view these works on my website.

There are more dances coming soon as we finish up the semester!  I believe I am charged with making four-ish more solos on myself in the next six weeks...

Good lord, I wish I had dancers/space/social interaction!

xoxo,
STB
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Sean Thomas Boyt’s work is invested in relationships: performers and their audiences, artists and their collaborators, lovers and their beloved.  Positioning their work in a realm of nostalgia, meditation, camp, and fantasy, Boyt transforms PDFs into ballets, dancing bodies into moving pictures, and obnoxious disco into lullabies.  By splicing seemingly random (potentially definitely random) worlds together, Sean’s dances are what transpires in the conversations *after* the show.  Maybe the next morning, too.
 
They make things that interrogate questions of technique, abstraction, cuteness, and sometimes even sustainability.  (Both the tree kind and the money kind.)  J-Pop.  Text.  Patience.  Laundry rooms.  Nothing is off-limits.  Subverting audiences’ expectations in each work, Sean plays with light, costume, and a diverse array of instruments that you just wouldn’t expect from someone who has no sense of rhythm nor tone.  Who is performing for whom?  Why does it matter?  What are you doing tonight?

“Dance like no one likes you,” STB tells you.  And with that, off they go again - making more dance happen.

STBDancing.com
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