Word of Mouth

Simonet: We didn’t want to be in New York; we wanted our own studio and the time and space to concentrate.

Brick: Experiment. Try stuff out.

Smith: We’re from the Richard Bull­Cynthia Novack­Susan Foster tradition of postmodern choreographic improvisation; recently we’ve stretched into music and making set dances.

Brick: We come out of concept art, but we’re interested in being entertaining as well.

Simonet: Bull and Foster did incredible work with form and structure; we try to bring a little more content.

Brick: Stories, personal and appropriated from the culture. Teen Tragedy Trilogy is inspired by the teenager who killed a little boy who came to his door selling candy, and Melissa Drexler, who gave birth at her prom, and schoolhouse shootings. It’s not particularly funny, though we do get laughter.

Simonet: A choreographer asked, ”Don’t you want to make things that are universal?” That never crossed my mind. I want to make things that are local, for others like me, strange people floating around in this culture.

Smith: We’ve been getting support from the Pew Charitable Trust, city and state money, and small foundations, but we’re getting bigger, and we don’t have the infrastructure.

Brick: We’re extraordinarily lucky by all these measures, yet all three of us are still working jobs: I’m a sign-language interpreter and I do arts-in-education consulting.

Smith: I work for a small corporate private-investigation firm, keeping the books, doing the billing–an ad hoc CFO.

Simonet:I teach dance at a private high school, and teach decision-making to primary school kids all over New Jersey.

Smith: We don’t have trust funds. We’re actually poor.

Brick: We opened for Jonathan Richman when he performed in Philly. A local producer wanted a retro happening so we performed at that rock show as well, and we got a younger audience: ”My friend told me that I would really like this, and I’m sold, and I’m coming back.”


Hey There Little JoJo

Any movie whose first shot is Jonathan Richman playing his guitar in a tree—out on a limb, ha ha—is all right sir.

So begins There’s Something About Mary, the giddy new Farrelly Brothers film starring Cameron Diaz and Ben Stiller. Hasn’t JoJo always been 20 feet tall in our hearts anyway? He’s a big thinker, a huge presence, a giant loverboy, a man with a vision vast enough to rhyme “Cleopatra” with “I wonder where she is atra” and get away with it. Jonathan and his scene-stealing, deadpan drummer Tommy Larkin pop up all through the plot to serenade, at one point dressed as the sort of hot dog vendors Jonathan would write a song about, like a phantom B side to “Ice Cream Man.” Considering the storyline in which Ben Stiller goes looking for his high school crush Diaz years after the fact, it’s surprising there’s no reprise of Richman’s stalker anthem “Back in Your Life”:

“I wanna be back in your life / Babyyyy / Babyyyy / Babyyyy.”

This little series of ongoing cameos syncopates the film so thrillingly, you want more. Why can’t all the summer blockbusters feature the college radio heroes of the ’80s as their Greek chorus in song? Like wouldn’t The Last Days of Disco have been a lot perkier if Alex Chilton were standing in the shadows every once and a while covering “The Hucklebuck”? The X-Files a smidgin lighter with the B-52’s hanging around whooping “Planet Claire”?

Armageddon less ra-ra Earth if it cut to the Fastbacks asking do you really want to live “In America”? Of course, a trend this satisfying is bound to get out of hand: Cameron Diaz plus Jonathan could degenerate pretty fast into Gwyneth Paltrow with XTC. Shudder To Think.