Lounging room only: In Prone, some audience members experience the dance performance at ground level.
Dance lovers wont take this lying downor will they?
By Michael Clive
When choreographer John Jasperses full-evening dance work Prone premieres at The Kitchen on December 2, the audience will be challenged but possibly not surprised. Jasperse is the kind of artist we love here, says ultra-hip writer Stephen Greco, who sits on the advisory board of the ultra-hip arts center. Hes dangerous.
I dont know about dangerous, laughs Jasperse. But its true that throughout my career Ive been committed to an experimental process, trying to redefine the form, or change it from within.
Jasperses explorations of dance fundamentals challenge audience preconceptions so deep, we often dont know they are there. Take for example the idea of sitting and watching. During parts of Prone, audience members are (you guessed it) prone on the floor, viewing the dancers from foot-level. This unfamiliar perspective forces us to be more aware of our spatial relationship with the dancers and the physical environment we share with them.
In this respect, Prone develops themes introduced in Jasperses 2003 duet Just Two Dancers. Before that, he says, everything I made was for the typical, frontal theatre venue where the audience sits and sees a stage down front. Then we exploded that idea, installing platforms over the seats, and rupturing the separation between the audience and the dancers.
These arent just abstract, esoteric theatrics that only fanatical aficionados of modern dance could love. I dont make dances only for the cognoscenti or the pre-converted, says Jasperse. Im very interested in a broader interaction with the public people who havent seen my work, or who havent even seen a dance performance. With greater knowledge of contemporary dance, you can make connections someone else might not make. But that doesnt make your experience any more or less valid.
Prone renews the collaboration between Jasperse and pioneering electronic harpist Zeena Parkins, whose imaginative playing techniques have extended the language of the acoustic harp into realms most instrumentalists have never dreamed of. Often preparing her instrument with household objects and hardware store finds including alligator clips, nails, erasers, tubing, felt, bolts, jars, string, and anything else within reach, Parkins uses digital and analog processing to transform her harp into a virtual sound machine.
Though Parkins has been active in the dance world in recent years, creating more than 30 scores for American and European choreographers, her professional reunion with Jasperse was a long time coming. Weve known each other for about 20 years, he says, since I was a dancer with Jennifer Monsons company and Zeena was a collaborating composer. But this is the first chance weve had to work together since 1989.
Prone features dancers Luciana Achugar, Levi Gonzalez and Eleanor Hullihan. Following the performance on Wednesday, December 7, Jasperse and Parkins will join the audience for an informal discussion of their work. But at all performances, seatingif you can call it thatis limited.