Photo by Julieta Cervantes, courtesy John Jasperse Company.
John Jasperse Company
The Kitchen, New York, NY
December 2–3, 6–10, 13–17, 2005
Reviewed by Susan Yung
Watching dance can be transporting, but John Jasperse has taken it to another level. In his latest endeavor, Prone, we audience members lay on inflatable mattresses with the option of twisting our necks to follow the dancers, or glimpsing them (and ourselves) in mirrored panels hanging from the ceiling. Some viewers’ eyes were covered briefly, forcing perception to flow to other senses. We had to engage in fundamentally different and far more participatory ways than usual.
Jasperse transformed The Kitchen into a low-tech but beautifully executed set, ostensibly from a sci-fi movie involving experimentation on humans. Twenty-four mattresses were arranged in a matrix, flanked by two rows of chairs; each half of the audience took turns lying down, and curiously, most chose to fold their hands over their chests, adding to the surrealism. The regular audience risers held a platform where composer Zeena Parkins darted about, playing live segments of the spacious score (also by Phantom Orchard, Ikue Mori, and Doug Henderson) on exotic-looking instruments.
Over the field of viewers, Luciana Achugar, Levi Gonzalez, and Eleanor Hullihan punted inflated bags, which piled up like beached, incandescent jellyfish. Costumed in lace knit tops and tweed shorts, the dancers began Jasperse’s distinctive movement, ratcheting their arms and folding at the waist, picking their way over the audience. They swung their stiff legs, levering them like big pry bars, seemingly using the energy to then fling their upper bodies. The three clustered, heaving one way or another, limbs flicking out from the fleshy mass. Breezes from the motion of the performers’ bodies brushed our faces, though they took care to avoid contact while dancing. Small bags inflated, then respirated between our legs, eliciting giggles.
In addition to his kinetically brainy choreography, Jasperse showed his gifts as a costume and lighting designer (lighting co-designed by Joe Levasseur). Chandeliers—nylon sheaths draped over caged bulbs—hung in a line; one of these fixtures became a luminous skirt for Hullihan, who briefly provided the sole source of light. It was an apt metaphor in a mesmerizing piece that succeeded in transforming our perception. See www.johnjasperse.org.