Thursday, September 22, 2016

Forward and backward and forward with John Jasperse

Heather Lang and Stuart Singer
in Remains,
a new work by John Jasperse
(photo: Grant Halverson)

Dance is that art where real bodies, usually in real time, put themselves on view and on the line. But linear time passes, and dance slips away--from place, from sight, from memory. (Well, maybe not completely erased, but memory files can get a bit corrupted.) You want to clamp your arms around something so courageous and so poignant. And, no, you can't.

A new work by John Jasperse for BAM Next Wave pointedly evokes these thoughts and feelings. It is called Remains, both a noun and a verb. That still, prone body we first see lying in the middle of BAM Harvey's stage, cheerfully dressed in glitter? Definitely no longer moving. How strange that the audience--silenced by what appears to be the beginning of the dance--is compelled to gaze at a fallen body while house lights remain up, ushers remain at their stations, and a flurry of latecomers find their seats. And even then. And even then.

Like other folks at last night's premiere, I kept craning my neck to watch the puzzling scene around me. Finally, one usher made a circling gesture in the air, and her fellow workers melted out of sight. If I recall, it still took a while for the lights to dim. And even then. And even then.

Velvety black, like night, surrounded that isolated, illuminated body still at rest on the stage.

The stage reappeared. Throughout the hour, the atmosphere stayed largely serene, sometimes devoid of sound. A minimalist set, parallel lines in the floor pattern, lighting and infusions of music introduced lightly-applied coordinates, giving the dancers a place to be, but most of those coordinates could be altered. Even the board-like panels that hugged the space took on different tones and temperatures of yellow. And the well-crafted dancing, loosely sourced in Jasperse repertory and influences, appeared to channel a flow of imagery from centuries of visual art as well. The game was in allowing that flow--so well conveyed in the dancing--and following it, savoring the things you recognize or think you recognize, then letting them go.

This company--Maggie Cloud, Marc Crousillat, Burr Johnson, Heather Lang, Stuart Singer and Claire Westby-- is a blessing to Jasperse, and the opening night audience responded with loving, palpable warmth, much deserved.

Music: John King
Additional music: Javier Peral and Die Antwoord
Visual design: John Jasperse and Lenore Doxsee
Costume design and construction: Baille Younkman
Lighting design: Lenore Doxsee

Remains continues through Saturday with performances at 7:30pm. For information and tickets, click here.

BAM Harvey Theater
651 Fulton Street, Brooklyn

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