Prior to the show last night, I caught zoe | juniper’s A Crack in Everything Installed. If you’ve seen it (it’s free), you’d probably agree, it’s totally bizarre and unnerving. There’s a series of women, standing in a line with tubetops on; their hair is up and they’re covered in silver glitter; their mouths are oozing some kind of golden bathballs, and red pieces of string drape down the walls. It’s a lot of discordant elements, and I couldn’t help but feel like I had stumbled on some kind of portal, and that I was seeing something I just shouldn’t be seeing. (The Boston Globe called the performance, “A crazy dream you just can’t shake.” Seems apt.)
Then the show started. I knew A Crack in Everything would be intense, but I wasn’t expecting this intense. Obviously the dancers of zoe | juniper are insanely skilled. I talked with choreographer Zoe Scofield about a month ago, on the phone, and she informed me the work is inspired by memory and non-linear aspects of time, and how our minds reconstruct and revisits traumatic events: this is a challenging proposition when the art of dance is, well, “time-based,” and sequential.
Struggling to put the pieces together of last night’s performance, my mind keeps coming back to the work of Matthew Barney. Since Taylor Mac has taught us that “comparison is violence,” yaddayadda, I’ll try and break it down, after the jump.
Art star Matthew Barney’s Cremaster video series is an entire mythology that Barney has created for himself (supposedly based on the Freemasonry, though that seems like bullshit to me). It’s a nonlinear narrative as well. It’s not something that absorbs your attention, but rather has you constantly pulling away and questioning your perception, “What the HELL am I seeing?” Zoe | juniper use screens and digital projections to create a shifting sense of space. And the dancers are costumed alike, and are about the same height, making them seem like an army of doppelgangers.
A lot of Barney’s work is about the limitations of the human body; similarly, the dancers of zoe | juniper spin, stomp, and race across the stage like it’s nobody’s business. At the end of the show, they take their bows and their bodies are heaving. Their control is amazing, and I think this is what makes the work convincing. With all the visual craziness, it could’ve easily been a complete mess, but because the dancers are so talented and so synchronized and involved, you can’t help but take them seriously.
Alas, the least convincing moment is probably when two of the dancers are stripped of their leotards, down to complete nakedness, and start barking at each other. Yea, barking like dogs. It felt overly awkward, and I heard one woman furtively whisper, “Stop it!” As well as a couple of giggles sprinkled throughout the audience.
One last note on Barney: he does these pieces called Drawing Restraints; one sequence in A Crack in Everything gets me thinking of them, where a female dancer has a red marker and traces the outline of her body along a screen, as she constantly moves and shifts across the stage:
If you know the Cremaster series, you’re probably aware that it’s pretty divisive: some love it, some hate it. They'll perform again tonight, and I’m guessing A Crack in Everything will have a similar effect.
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