jill sigman/thinkdance

May 20, 2007

The idea of walking on eggshells—both metaphorically and physically—was at the center of Jill Sigman’s latest work. In preparation, Sigman, who has traveled the world to study dance, art, and culture, sought out anonymous answers to the questions What have you broken? What have you lost? and How do you want to die? She placed question cards all over NYC (in bathrooms, restaurants, subways, theatres, phone booths) and sent them across the country and beyond, having friends place the cards anywhere from San Francisco to Serbia. She enlisted the help of dancers, friends, and family to write the answers on eggshells in a metaphorical-meets-literal translation.

What resulted was RUPTURE, an uncomfortably personal piece of performance art dubbed a “solo with chorus.” Four dancers began in the center of a giant oval of eggshells, twitching like amoebas. Screens projecting barely recognizable images flashed like a strobe light throughout the performance. Sigman began at the top of a ladder overlooking her chorus, chanting in Indian (taking inspiration from the country where the project was initially conceived.)

For much of the dance, the chorus and Sigman seemed to be at odds. At one point, she threw herself into the circle, surrounded by the dancers. As she quickly crawled around on her stomach, the dancers forced her to tell a barely comprehensible story of throwing a crab into the ocean at Coney Island. The absurdity of it created a comical scene: One dancer held Sigman’s head up by blue hair, another shoved a microphone to her face, and a third tapped her feet, waiting for their prisoner to speak. (The story was later explained at length as she sat on a ladder, speaking candidly about the end of a relationship.)

Another segment was what Sigman called the “body scale.” Sigman called out instructions on how to move in a square dance style. Phrases like “row the boat,” “stampede,” “flip your partner,” “sign the deal,” and “drunken lounge singer,” led to humorous interpretations by the dancers, and eventually developed into a choreographed phrase.

The most intriguing part of the performance (and what felt like the ending although it went on somewhat relentlessly afterwards) was Sigman’s 20-minute journey around the thousands of eggshells. As she slowly walked heel-to-toe, crunching each shell beneath her feet, the audience was invited to come forward, write the answer to one of the original three questions on a new eggshell, and place it into the circle, breathing new life into the debris.