John Jasperse Company
Joyce Theater, NYC
June 16–19, 2010
Reviewed by Susan Yung
Kayvon Pourazar, Erin Cornell, Neal Beasley, and Eleanor Hullihan in Truth, Revised Histories.... Photo by Sylvio Dittrich, Courtesy Joyce.
John Jasperse has experimented with numerous styles, concepts, and stage setups throughout his career; what remains constant is his voracious curiosity. In his recent work, Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking, and Flat Out Lies, he focuses on the nature of performance and tangents such as illusion, entertainment, and the dancers’ relationships with the audience. In the spirit of Judson Dance Theater, he also raises questions about what constitutes choreography. Phrases of dance movements, of course, but what about odd tics? Or statue-like stillness?
The episodic structure of Truth is a departure for Jasperse, as is the jukebox-style score, which includes an onstage performance by ICE of Hahn Rowe's music. A floral pattern covers a section of backdrop and floor in an otherwise black set. Neal Beasley and Kayvon Pourazar wear sparkly mesh tanks, Erin Cornell and Eleanor Hullihan short black sequined dresses. Beat-heavy hip hop and smoke effects set the tone for a muscular version of Jasperse's lanky modern choreography, his familiar straight swung legs and pivoting pelvises tarted up with swimming-fish hands and a lot of attitude. Jasperse, playing the clown throughout the evening, enters with a mic stand and begins pirouette practice, followed by heavy self-critiquing. The other dancers stand watching and begin shaking their spotlit rear ends (excellent mood-appropriate lighting by Jasperse and Joe Levasseur); they line up downstage in ridiculously long-held, wobbling arabesques.
More unexpected choreography follows. Jasperse does some magic tricks, pleased with himself. The women sunbathe in bikinis that match the set's floral print; they strip down to lace panties and are joined by the two men in thongs on their hands and knees. They all writhe and sneer seductively. Jasperse, in a black full bodysuit, creeps across the stage, camouflaged until the flower print, which he scampers by quickly. Rowe's music is dreamy here, abetted by fog effects, but throughout the dance he touches on numerous styles and tempos interspersed with recordings.
The second act, by contrast, features an all-white unadorned set, including musicians. The dancers wear more formal white costumes, designed by Jasperse with Deanna Berg MacLean: mini-dresses and clunky nude oxford shoes for the women, shorts suits and white bucks for the guys. They act like they've had a few too many mint juleps on derby day, engaging in louche social dancing, and repeating a drag-and-stamp-out-cigarette mime. Jasperse accusingly points a cut-out arrow at Cornell; she grabs it and points it back at him. They fight, moving through a beautiful slow-motion tussle full of convincing facial expressions. All of the performers drape doilies over their heads and freeze in periodically shifted poses for a long span. The dancers relax into Jasperse's more familiar movement, which—after an evening of visual jokes and hamminess that fly in the face of such dance—feels like an anticlimactic ending to a provocative evening.