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Looks Like Sounds Like, a Study in Contrasts—and Perception
Photo: stb x at

Looks Like Sounds Like, a Study in Contrasts—and Perception

by Darcy Grabenstein

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.

*Kat Sullivan is a writer for thINKingDANCE


Looks Like Sounds Like, stb x at, 2020 Fringe Festival, Sept. 10–Oct. 4.

By Darcy Grabenstein
September 10, 2020

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