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Flash Review, 1-17: Horror
Jasperse's Rube Goldberg Contraptions
By Ursula Eagly
Copyright 2001 Ursula Eagly
The John Jasperse Company
mesmerized last night's packed Joyce Theater with "Waving to You
from Here" (1997) and "Scrawl" (1999). In both works, four dancers
move angularly to the accompaniment of James Lo's soundscapes. Quirky
use of props amplifies the geometric and pedestrian aspects of their
motion. The dancing is precise without being virtuosic. Neither
piece is emotive; nor is it unemotional. The performers' interactions
suggest interpersonal influence, manipulation, dependence, and codependence.
Jasperse was brought
into the broad public spotlight after Mikhail Baryshnikov recently
commissioned a piece for his White Oak Dance Company. The choreographer
has earned a reputation for making thoughtful dances. His work can
be enjoyed and scrutinized on many levels and from dozens of angles,
be they kinetic, aesthetic, political, or emotional.
"Waving to You from Here"
matches characteristic Rube Goldberg machine-like movements with
the familiar sounds of bouncing ping pong balls, chirping insects,
and cheering sports announcers. Dancers sit, walk, and fall on a
set of wooden bleachers upstage center. They stack and carry newspapers,
books, and brown paper packages. A "ceiling" made of squares of
iridescent scrim descends upon the group and finally falls on them.
In "Scrawl," dancers
unroll what look like long yoga mats to the sound of computerized
recitations. Throughout much of the piece, a digitized voice chants
phrases involving pairs: "meat and potatoes," "peace and quiet,"
"ladies and gentlemen," "Johnson and Johnson," "women and minorities."
As the dancers perform duets, viewers consider the many possible
relationships between the partners. "Scrawl" also ends on a menacing
note, when the voice completes a tirade with the frightening, if
also comic accusation, "You will never amount to anything." This
deadpan pairing of horror and humor lies at the heart of much of
John Jasperse Company's
Joyce program repeats Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. The
Saturday performance is followed by a talk with the artists. For
more information, please visit the
Joyce web site.
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