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COVER STORY

They hang out

May 08, 2003

Hannah Sim and Mark Steger, who teamed up 15 years ago in San Francisco, moved here seven years later and do their singular business these days under the name osseus labyrint.

Their work schedule has included corporate parties, rock concerts and film appearances -- "we showed up for about five seconds as aliens in 'Men in Black II,' " Sim says. But the two say they take the greatest satisfaction, and often the least remuneration, from their work in weird places before live audiences.

Among the places: the treetops of an Austrian forest, a Victorian pool house in Birmingham, England; a psychiatric hospital in Pilsen, Czech Republic; and the swimming pool at Hollywood's Coral Sands Motel. They've done a lot in Europe, Sim notes, "because there's less red tape" and because "it's more interesting for us to collaborate with the environment."

Both bald, sinewy and in their early 40s, the two say they're untrained in dance or theater, and more interested in biology and cyborgs. In their work, they're often naked, hairless and harnessed, scuttling like insects or dangling like bats. They resist categorization as either dancers or actors. In unguarded moments, they call themselves "movers." L.A. Times dance critic Lewis Segal has called them "contemporary dance at its most hauntingly extreme."

"It's kind of like a Rorschach test," says Sim. "Everybody looks at it, and you get what you get."

For a 2001 performance in a former subway building downtown, the two arranged a mock symposium. Before entering the space, audience members had to sign waivers regarding use of their DNA, then don protection suits. Ushered into the main room, they found Sim and Steger hanging in harnesses like aliens fallen to earth, with video projections on the walls. The entire script grew from what they imagined once they'd gotten ahold of the room.

They're seeking a site for their largest work so far, "something cavernous and industrial," Sim says. They're mostly mum on it except to say it's about a year away and will involve liquid, and electricity arcing off their bodies.

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Info: www.osseuslabyrint.net.

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