Art Appreciation: False Confidence
Updated: Aug 30, 2020
To kick off this series of bi-weekly appreciation posts on art and art appreciation in its many forms and sources, I’m diving into an example from my favorite art of all time: dance! This got me thinking about my own journey as a dancer, and while that can be a whole other article for another series (would you be interested?), I want to preface this post with some nod to that should it give color to this and future posts.
My parents put me in ballet classes when I was three, from which I experienced everything from leaping across a wooden floor in a hot studio with other tutu-clad pre-schoolers, being coaxed and pushed into a split, and attempting to isolate my pinky toe from its neighbors in a reoccurring exercise in muscle control (I never got past wiggling my big toe). In my pre-teen times, I switched from ballet to traditional Chinese dance, which happened alongside my Sunday Mandarin lessons with a steady group of classmates.
I was an absolute diva as a young girl, jumping at any chance to flaunt my red velvet dress or pink leotard and show off my elegant tendus in front of my parents as they watched TV. As the teenage years rolled around, I became more like an ugly duckling, gangly and self-conscious. But thankfully, my passion for dance carried over into college, where my naivety led me to start a dance group (Eon Dance Troupe!); and with the help of my amazing friends and fellow dance-enthusiasts, I honed my skills bit by bit with YouTube videos and free workshops. There were countless bright moments of inspiration laced into the waves of self-doubt, but the passion for the art only gets stronger year by year, bringing me closer and closer to my inner child. Ultimately, dance has followed me throughout my life and brought with it a powerful message of self-discovery and emotional strength.
The dancers, choreographers, and performances I’d love to rave about are endless! I’ll start with a piece that matches the theme of my most recent Beat the Blerch post (Stillness and Motion in the Cycles of Self-Growth) and the golden thread of self-discovery that essentially drives Organized Chaos. It’s False Confidence.
Choreography: Sean Lew
Dancers: Sean & Kaycee
Cinematography: Jon Hernandez
Event: Buildabeast Experience 2019
0:03 - 1:03
The dance starts with the two playing slide, clapping and crisscrossing their hands to the two-toned staccato of strings. The syncopation is carried out throughout their movements and expressions, with Sean and Kaycee moving in near parallels, mirroring each other for brief moments before melting or swinging back into asymmetry. Inversely, the rhythm beats steady but dips in intervals before finding its place again.
Sean is the playful one at the start, slacking his posture and clowning like a kid as Kaycee stares blankly ahead in the moments before their duet. Sean himself explains that he was “creating an experience for two people that were pushed to act vulnerable and silly with each other” but I also read this opening as a young girl looking into a mirror, searching for herself but not quite knowing what to see or what to expect. The reflection is her, yet not her. It is shifting, reaching, and staring back while she remains detached. Perhaps she sees an external facade of herself that does not match what’s inside, or perhaps this is the carefree person she wishes to be but cannot grasp.
1:03 - 1:20
The textures in the entire middle section are phenomenal, with sharp contrasts in speed, levels, range of motion, and angles (all executed with such precision!) seamlessly aligned with the music and lyrics. It is an aesthetic dessert. As their bodies twisted together then pulled apart, still in imperfect parallels, it reminded me of the process of building a puzzle: positioning pieces up against each other only to find a slight mismatch. It also brought up a memory of those kids' toys with beads held within a network of wires. I would play with that at the doctor’s office as a kid with the wishful thought that if I ran the beads through the track enough times or in just the right way they might collide. But of course, the beads would slide past each other on separate tracks.
At the very start of this section, they move stiffly, as if in freeze-frames or a wind-up toy, again evoking kids’ playtime. The slumped-over turn (at 1:08 if you’re following along) is another bright moment! I’m a sucker for a turn like that, which leads from one body part and swings the entire body around. This one was like a tumbler toy, carrying on the connotation with childhood. Ultimately, the tension in their movement as well as their physical differences in height and interpretation is so satisfying to watch. The unresolved tension on her face pulls you in. An experienced dancer dances with everything they’re got, including the face!
1:20 - 2:16
From here, the music builds and the choreography evolves with it, first breaking down the parallels until the two bodies begin moving much more autonomously, though still very much aware of and in collaboration with one another. They even hit strong perpendiculars on at least two separate points, but with him lifting her in the second instance. Here Sean’s description of the push between two people resonates clearly, though I would still offer the interpretation of one girl’s inner battle with herself. The difference here is she’s now at the stage of reckoning with different and potential opposing pieces of herself. This speaks so aesthetically and powerfully to the complexity of people--we all have contradictory parts of ourselves. They make for fascinating internal conversations. Sometimes they wrestle, and at other times one can offer support to another.
After 1:50, Sean and Kaycee switch it up with a fast-paced choreography with matching movements side by side. Perhaps this is the two people or the two inner selves falling into sync, or both unleashing their full potential, but in a spirited and synergized effort. It’s lovely to see Kaycee going full out here with both her movements and an unconcealed smile. Both of them are sharp and emotive in their moves and I love seeing their motions translate this in different ways. Fans of the two know just how undeniable their chemistry is as movers on the dance floor and this piece is my favorite example of that!
If you loved this performance and want to see more of Sean and Kaycee, definitely check out Sew Lew’s Youtube channel (Sean Lew) and their joint channel (Sean and Kaycee) where they have many more duets as well as process videos. Sean also has a short film that revolves around his work for the past 3 years in the works. It’s called “A Different Look of Art” and he’s set up a GoFundMe.
What did you think of the dance? If you could describe it in one word what would it be? Do you have artists or projects you'd recommend I check out? Tune in two weeks later for another appreciation piece!