Tuesday, September 21, 2004

John Jasperse- After some thought and reflection 

It began as sound: house lights up, monolithic set piece dangling from the ceiling, a single piano note, I think, but cannot say for sure; noticed but ignored. The festival crowd continued their enthusiastic chatter. I suppose we expected something obvious. And when it came a few minutes later, clad in a blue mechanic’s jumpsuit, a woman half hidden by the scenery, we knew we missed our cue. When did this begin? And later, when did the lights go down? And how long have those women been walking around without ever touching their heels to the stage?

From the beginning the set is divisive. Initially it cuts us off from some of the dancers whose legs are the only visible parts of their body. Later it will cut them off from each other. Division and connection run throughout the piece. There is always someone who is rising above and in so doing leaving the others behind. It seems that this is recognized among them and retaliated against with an even more vigorous attempt to connect, to include more of the dancers as they frantically dance, spinning and rolling off one another. The haves and the have-nots come to mind. Us and them come to mind. I have a vision of my own death.

And then, as a unified entity, the company turns their angst against the scenery. Jerking at the cords that hold it together, they deconstruct this symbolic rift. A new form is born on stage. (Later in the Ammar Eloueini lecture I would find that it falls differently every night slightly altering the dance each time.) What was most disconcerting then was that my post-deconstructionist utopian vision was shattered as well. The remaining dance, scenic division removed, was hardly paradise. It is beautifully danced, fluid and graceful, and thus at times horrific in it’s almost post apocalyptic visions.

Nearing the end of California the sounds of crushing metal against the images of people unable to break free from repetitive action is heart wrenching. The woman in the back, who’s outfitted her two prone companions with leaf blowers, pulls their cords endlessly upon herself. The relieving plug never slides across the stage, and as if to prove that it never will, every now and then, a leaf blower revs. Stage right, intertwined beneath the shattered edifice and bathed in light, a couple mirror each other on the ground. Any of the previous upward mobility seems in vain. Structure destroyed, the landscape is bleaker then ever. I want desperately for the piece to end; I cannot bear to watch it any longer. And it’s not for lack of beauty. I feel such empathy for the dancers that their prison is my torture. Luckily, as close as I thought I could get to my breaking point and maybe a little beyond, my, “When is this going to end?” is answered with a blackout. Heavy sigh.

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