Becky, Jodi and John
Dance Theater Workshop, NYC
April 4-7, 2007
Reviewed by Susan Yung
Pictured: Becky, Jodi and John
Photographer: Julieta Cervantes
Courtesy: Dance Theater Workshop
In Becky, Jodi and John, a highly personal show by John Jasperse, the audience was invited to hear privileged information that validated Becky Hilton, Jodi Melnick, and the choreographer’s shared age of 43. Melnick, an accomplished, itinerant modern dancer, appeared on the heels of a luminous performance with Vicky Shick. And yet our perception of her as youthful deflated as her numerous ailments were read aloud by Hilton from a laptop delivered by a scene-stealing remote controlled car. We learned of aching joints, movement limitations (“No jumping. I can’t stress this enough.”), no partnering, and costume preferences (“arms covered”). Despite her appealingly fragile grace, which she demonstrated as Hilton read, she suddenly seemed her age plus, compounded by dance’s harsh toll.
Hilton, based in Australia, replaced Jasperse’s original choice of Chrysa Parkinson, who had schedule conflicts. But Parkinson, prominent as a talking head captured on a video screen, opened the piece as the three performers emerged out of a trough upstage. At times, just their legs and feet were visible, their bodies and limbs cropped from view. Parkinson’s reference to the topic of “irrelevance” devolved into repeated rhyming asides about “her elephant,” as she held up a stuffed pachyderm that later made a guest cameo. Only Parkinson’s half of a conversation was heard, underscoring her absence. Hilton, a gregarious stage presence, talked about her 5 year-old son dressing up as the superhero with a “special power of disappointment.” Jasperse, for his part, didn’t reveal much narratively, but expressed it physically—appearing nude, carrying a tower of cardboard bricks that he restacked in a particular way. As telling are the long relationships—the genesis for this work—he has cultivated in his work as an artist.
Melnick narrated a segment about a presenter critical of Jasperse (whose opinion he respects) as too formal, not adventurous enough. Perhaps this was the catalyst for this piece, which in fact lacked his usual rigorous formal touch. It lapsed into cuteness one time too many—the performers’ names embroidered on their costumes, a fake Q&A when the dancers answered viewers’ questions with pre-scripted text, Hilton donning an R-rated version of her son’s superhero getup. But in a brilliantly theatrical moment, Jasperse stared at us as his shirt began smoking; flumes and tendrils from a mini smoke machine shrouded his face as if he were burning up before our eyes. Hahn Rowe mixed onstage live music and sound samples; Jasperse and Joe Levasseur designed the tone-perfect lighting.