At a casual, one-time performance at 2pm on May 6, Spanish duo EA&AE performed ENTOMO for about 25 people. The Chicago debut followed Victor Alexander’s rigorous, intelligent men’s trio Line of Sighs and Hide, My Red-Eyed Beauty, a mixed-gender trio from the Humans far more engaging in performance gallery DEFIBRILLATOR than where I last saw it, Hamlin Park Fieldhouse Theater. (There are details in the latter work, such as director-choreographer Rachel Bunting’s automatonic, ventriloquist’s-dummy jaw movements, that are too easily missed in a black-box presentation.)
ENTOMO started simply: Álvaro Esteban, wearing all-black business casual and rubber-soled shoes, strolled toward the center of the space with his hands in his pockets and lay prone on the polished, white-painted concrete. Elías Aguirre, the other half of EA&AE, followed suit, dressed the same only in a plum-colored shirt, and draped his upper body over Esteban’s back. The sound of insects chirping, maybe a field recording from a forest floor, filled the sparse, silver-walled space. The men, Aguirre first, started to make small, hyperspecific movements. The work’s score passed through a slanted take on “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess and into a slick set of Saturday-night cocktail beats.
The two were brothers or sparring adolescents or grown rivals but also convincingly entomological. Their presentient actions were skillfully modulated to be action-packed but not appetent, data-rich but not diarrheal. Inverting the antler-locking bouts of young bull elk, Aguirre and Esteban butted back-to-back more often than head-to-head. (They also broke for bits of unison, suggesting synchrony — a grand design? — inside ritualistic opposition.) The final stage of their encounter was epic in short strokes like calligraphy from a wise hand.
Suggesting the brief lifespan of most insects, they made their way back after about ten minutes to their opening arrangement, where they spasmed before finally being still once again. The whites were all I saw of Esteban’s eyes as he gave himself fully to this stage-death, completed to the sound of insects chirping, maybe a field recording from a forest floor.
Oversized expectations preceded the work’s local premiere — it’s received raves and awards. How satisfying to see the hype justified through the thoughtful evocation of life in miniature.
EA&AE presented ENTOMO at DEFIBRILLATOR with the support of SPAIN arts & culture, the Cultural Office of the Embassy of Spain. The pair’s American tour concluded with three performances during the Kennedy Center’s “Look Both Ways: Street Arts Across America” Festival in Washington, D.C.