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Friday, September 17, 2010

John Jasperse Company: Truth, Revised Histories, and Flat Out Lies

Posted by Alison Hallett on Fri, Sep 17, 2010 at 4:56 PM

JJA-Truth_027.jpg

[I need to preface this review with the disclaimer that I do not consider myself a dance critic, and that I stepped in at the last minute to cover this when the writer I initially assigned it to was unable to cover it. I'm pinch-hitting here. We'll see how it goes.]

Four dancers stand in a semi-circle, backs to the audience. Spotlights illuminate their... the backs of their legs? No, those are butt spotlights, and the butts themselves are clenching and unclenching, sort of rhythmically, and... where's that muffled singing coming from?

I thought the singing butts during John Jasperse Company's Truth, Revised Histories, and Flat Out Lies were really funny. I also liked the not-sneaky ninja, and the awesome use of misdirection in an elaborate magic trick, and the part of the show where black-clad dancers turn into shadows, and the part where Erin Cornell and Eleanor Hullihan danced around shirtless while Neal Beasley and Kayvon Pourazar writhed on the floor in assless underwear. The first half of Truth is a series of visual gags transmitted in a range of dance styles, from druggy club dancing to ballet to choreographed ninja fights. It is clever and engaging and completely surprising, and at no point was I troubled by the sense of translating with a faulty dictionary, which is how I usually feel during dance performances. At intermission the house was cleared and the stage was reset and the audience chattered cheerfully about what a funny show it was. So at least I wasn't the only rube who thought the butts were funny.

The second half retains some of the humor of the first, but there's also a sense that now that the company has worn down our defenses by being sexy and hilarious, the real work is going to start. Unfortunately, I couldn't make sense of the real work, at all. White-clad dancers moved on a white stage in ways I didn't entirely understand, and also put doilies on their heads. I got the dictionary feeling.

It is possible this is one of those shows where if you liked the funny parts, then the joke's at your expense. I'm not sure. (My job is a pain in the ass sometimes, guys. TRUST NO ONE.) I don't really think so, though, because it seemed like the dancers, too, liked the funny parts—like there's a barely suppressed grin under the surface of it all. I'd love to hear thoughts on the second half, if anyone has 'em.

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