JOHN JASPERSE "REMAINS"
September 22, 2016
The first image we see in John Jasperse “Remains” presented in the BAM Harvey Theatre is striking; it serves as a prologue to his hour long work. He contrasts lines and curves, stark and smooth, the durability of steel and the ephemeral nature of being, a shout and a purr by lying a dancer on her side with her back to the audience, her bottom twinkling in sequins in a grey space empty except for a gleaming three- sided beam. When the dancer finally begins to move lazily, Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World” comes to mind, but instead of its evocation of estrangement and longing, we feel the woman's sensuality. Jasperse plays on our memory of other paintings, such as “The Three Graces” by choose your favorite artist; Regnault, Botticelli, Raphael, or Rubens.
Jasperse employs an architectural approach that makes the viewer feel they have encountered something solid, even while he abruptly stops playful outbursts, heats up the set beam through a succession of colored gels: from yellow to red to white to yellow, and side-steps sentimentality by never implying any lasting relationships. How he shapes the whole is what makes you appreciate why he has enjoyed a reputation as a choreographer for 30 years. He shares the visual design credit with Lenore Doxsee who did the superb lighting design.
The movement is often familiar - walking steps for six: Maggie Cloud, Marc Crousillat, Burr Johnson, Heather Lang, Stuart Singer, and Claire Westby, moving in two lines that repeatedly criss cross each other suggesting the harmony we can imagine of 19th century ice skaters or dancers jumping into each other to be flung or briefly cradled. Costumes and poses are shared by the three men and women. First, three women take the iconic pose of “The Three Graces” and later three men appear wearing short dresses assume the same positions, though slightly more effeminate. Towards the close, Jasperse relaxes his formality to throw in a bit of dead-pan voguing, and play with syncopation in a side by side duet.
John King is credited with the music, which often supports a sense of nostalgia or humor, but its the timing and length of the silences that are most effective, just as the moments when the dancers are prone seem the most lush.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers