March 3, 2014
Typically I’m weary of dance performances that are installation or theater based.
More often than not they are over wrought with clichés and everything but actual
dance movement. As I got off the Graham stop on the L in Brooklyn Friday night my
suspicions grew as I walked briskly to what is formerly known as the Greenpoint
Hospital. Upon arrival I entered through a side entrance, down two sets of stairs
and finally into the lobby of 4Chambers a “sensorial journey into the human heart,”
presented by Jody Oberfelder projects.
The intimate performance instillation is intended for an audience of 12.
My group at the second performance was 7, 3 couples and myself. We waited for the
show to start in a small room, with various heart paraphernalia, including books and
portraits to engage us. At 8:30, Oberfelder enters and sits with us, standing up at one
point as the lights dimmed to introduce the show and send us on our way.
I won’t ruin the experience and give too much away, but essentially 6 dancers serve
as “docents” that lead you through the instillation one room at a time. Luckily for
my group, we each had our own docent, except for two people who shared one.
I was struck by how much the closeness and intimacy that I
experience on a regular basis, fueled my visceral and emotional response to what
was happening before me. Not only are you seeing the performers dancing in unison
beside and in front of you, but also at times you are “dancing” with them.
Each audience member will have a different experience. And unfortunately I was
so caught up in mine, that I failed to observe and take note of what others were
experiencing. I developed trust quickly with my docent, and when he left me at
times, I was happy to see him return later. It was sensual: the
dancing, the touch, the eye contact. No response is right or wrong Oberfelder tells us
in the beginning.
The idea that dance has enough weight to carry itself into another medium such as
interactive theatre is important to note. The eerie setting of the hospital, the dancers
who moved with gusto and maintained intense focus, and the tight but intricate
choreography all helped in making 4Chambers a positive experience.
Sleep No More are already doing work like this, and this genre needs to continue
to be developed. Value exists in audience members who can appreciate dance not
only from a plush seat, but also inches away from the action. It's invigorating to watch dance give
audiences new reasons to appreciate the craft. Jody Oberfelder you’ve debunked my
fears…for now. My heart beats red with appreciation.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon