Baffling REMAINS: John Jasperse at ADF

I’ve seen John Jasperse‘s work a number of times now. I’ve seen him perform, and I’ve seen his company–now called John Jasperse Projects–perform his choreography. I’ve read numerous reviews of his work by a variety of critics. I’ve noted that he is stepping into to the directorship of the dance program at Sarah Lawrence, from which he received his dance degree in 1985, and that he has won a large number of high-level grants and awards. The American Dance Festival has been a staunch supporter, and this season is presenting John Jasperse Projects in an ADF co-commission, Remains. However, after watching the premiere of Remains last night in Reynolds Theater, I am more baffled than ever about John Jasperse.

_GH44697

From the premiere of John Jasperse’s Remains at the American Dance Festival, 7/5/16.  Photo: Grant Halverson.

 

This 60-minute performance opened with a dazzling bit of lighting magic. An inert female body lies downstage, apparently in a black shroud. Yet when she rises (and stretches into a classic fashion-0n-the-beach pose) her dress is pale. Amazing! But it is all downhill from there, with the lighting effects remaining the most interesting aspect of the production.

Remains struck me not as a whole, but as a collection of a dozen or so sketches, loosely connected by hieratic poses vaguely Egyptian in style; by fashion model and pop star posturing, and by the smarmy self-involvement I associate with this choreographer. The occasional bursts of dancing were not inventive. When there was music at all, it was mostly ugly–both the original music by John King (minimal is too large a word) and contributions by Javier Peral (who specializes in fashion show soundtracks) and the band Die Antwoord. The costumes seemed to be designed (Baille Younkman) to emphasize the human body’s less attractive qualities, except for those that blurred the bodies by their sequined reflectivity. Throughout, the lighting design, by Lenore Doxsee, remained the element that kept me in my seat.

_GH44724

Lenore Doxsee’s lighting on the male dancers of John Jasperse Projects, in the premiere of Jasperse’s Remains at ADF, 7/5/16. Photo: Grant Halverson.

 

But, you know, sometimes the things you hate make you understand your own values better. I value wholeness, a harmony of the parts. The parts may themselves be ugly; the subject may be difficult or repellent, but I want the artwork to feel whole–even if it is about brokenness. My inclination is towards the idealizing, the emotionally or spiritually elevating. I want there to be a point to it all, even if in daily life I must submit to random chaos and pointlessness. One reason I love dance is that it can so directly communicate life force. So I’m probably never going to be a good audience for John Jasperse, who seems to have a joyless take on life and whose movement language expresses a boring nihilism clad in oh-so-stylish wrappings.

When it rises to the level of infuriating the viewer, rather than boring her, though, the work is better. The last time Jasperse was at the ADF, he presented Within Between (which went on to win a 2014 Bessie Award). It was beautiful! It was exciting! It was clever without being cruel! It had amazing dancing and a mind-blowing sequence in which a dancer extends a long pole over the proscenium and traces the curves of a viewer’s head! It appeared to be a dance about making a dance–the efforts, the repetitions and variations, the failures, the soaring successes. The lighting and stage design (Lenore Doxsee) were gorgeous, and the costumes very smart. But near the end, it all turned dreary and quotidian. The magic-making artists, without the magic-making lighting, are seen as mere drudges, the studio just a factory. I felt hoodwinked, the rug pulled out, my candy stolen. I was so mad I could not even write a word.

But I’ve kept a photo from that show on my desktop, and I’ve thought about that dance every single day for two years. So–I can’t really say it was a failure. Not sure, though, that there will be anything to exhume from Remains.

140527_John_Jasperse_003

From Within Between by John Jasperse, at ADF 2014.

 

Remains repeats July 6 and 7, 8 pm, in Reynolds Theater. Tickets here.

_GH44773

John Jasperse’s Remains will repeat July 6 and 7 at ADF. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Bamboo Wind

An Evening of Dance, Sculpture & Photography

mhdekm

A topnotch WordPress.com site

peter harris, tapestryweaver

TAPestry And DESIgn

Gilbert and Sullivan's "Thespis" & "Trial by Jury" -- Director's Blog

a countdown to the next performance, October 12-15, 2017

Backstrap Weaving

My weaving , my indigenous teachers, my inspiration, tutorials and more........

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Not At Home In It

collections/connections

inkled pink

warp, weave, be happy!

warpologynotufos

Projects finished or in process by the Warpology studio

Peggy Osterkamp's Weaving Blog

"Weaving should be fun!"

SHUTTLE WORKS STUDIO

Studio Life of a Weaver, Spinner, Dyer

This Day in North Carolina History

The people and places of the Tar Heel state day by day.

Linda Frye Burnham

Laissez les bons temps rouler

Art Menius

Roots Music, Culture, and Social Change

Mae Mai

Boldly going where no cellist has gone before...

The Upstager

All the world's an upstage.

Literary Life in Italy

Looking at Italy through literature

The Five Points Star

Cultural criticism, news, schmooze and blues radiating from Durham, NC

%d bloggers like this: