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Saturday, September 11, 2004

John Jasperse Company Friday Night 

Run Don’t Walk (Part I)
to See John Jasperse Company

Driving downtown to the PSU Lincoln Hall for the Friday night performance of John Jasperse’s piece California the roadways were full of cars seemingly all going in my direction. A few headlights coming at me, a sea of brake lights and auto rear-ends in front of me. With time to think, not always a good thing when I am in a hurry, a familiar refrain crosses my mind. It goes something like this: O shit, I’m done for. Look at all the people in front of me on their way to see John Jasperse perform. I should of left earlier. There’s going to be a line I won’t get a good seat Maybe I won’t get in I should of known better John Jasperse’s after all New York City everybody in town’s going to be coming out to see him. Eventually I made it downtown, easily find a parking space (try east of Broadway east of PSU main buildings). Inside Lincoln Hall I was greeted by a TBA volunteer who gave me directions to the door I should head towards; pass holders to the left, ticket holder to the right, or buy your ticket at the box office right over there. When I was safely waiting in the still short line for the doors to open (hint: I arrived 15 minutes before show time) I laughed thinking of my earlier thoughts about every car on the road heading toward PSU to see California. But after the show I thought-- all those peoples in all those cars who were headed downtown? If they weren’t all headed for Lincoln Hall, they should have been:

On a lighted stage, suspended from what appears to be thin mental bars on even thinner metal wires is a floating sculpture riddled with random hinges (this piece was commission as set design from Ammar Eloueini). The shape is mind boggling, evocative, seems to take up most of the stage space. I wonder how the dancers will fit on stage or move around without hitting their heads. I wonder, could it be a slide, a piece of a building, a huge heating duct, a piece of a coat of arms for the huge arm of some otherworldly being or even for God/dess? Ah, a story.

The audience, just about filling every seat in the house, is still buzzing with pre-show buzz, talking amongst themselves when a single piano note begins. Loud but with lots of space in between soundings. Nothing has changed on stage but now some of the audience begins attending forward. California is beginning out of thin air. This way of beginning dance performances is not as unusual as it used to be a number of years ago, but when it’s done well, like it is in Jasperse’s piece, it’s like inducing a trance. The audience gets put on the hypnotic spot, a very personal sensation of “this is happening to me” and is asked to choose: between the familiar-the darkened stage, or a curtain drawn--and the unknown. Am I going in or am I staying out? we're asked.

A solo dancer, barefoot, in navy blue coveralls-the kind car mechanics and apartment supers wear-appears stage left and if you’ve chosen to be In, you start feeling happy to be there, you made the right choice, and your curious for what’s next. The audience last night started out (or would that be “In”?) like pilgrims on the brink of taking the first step on that 1000-mile journey to Mecca. The stillness of waiting coupled with a good heart filled with knowing there is no other place you'd rather be tonight than sitting in row H seat 14 (a great seat by the way) in Lincoln Hall.

I'm ready John, take me now.

Next: Part II, the dance

Lilian Gael

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