“Fort Blossom Revisited (2000/2012)”
New York Live Arts
New York, NY
May 10, 2012
By Carol Pardo
Copyright ©2012 by Carol Pardo
Watching bodies in motion is what you do at a dance concert. During “Fort Blossom Revisited (2000/2012)”, an expanded reexamination of his “Fort Blossom” (2000), John Jasperse pushed his audience beyond that passive state. Watching the performance blossomed into looking then to examining, and finally to really seeing that beautiful and finely wrought machine the human body at work. The progression was thrilling.
The choreographer’s methods were simple and familiar to anyone who has taken Art History 101: compare and contrast. One side of the stage floor was basic black, the other bright white. The only props were plastic cushions, orange or transparent, inflated or deflated. The cast of four included two women (Lindsay Clark and Erin Cornell), clothed, and two men (Ben Asriel and Burr Johnson), naked. Clark and Cornell, both brunettes were made to look as similar as possible in identical red rust dresses and similar makeup. Asriel with his blond curls and wide eyes, brought to mind a Quattrocento Saint Sebastian, all vulnerable innocence. Burr, dark-haired, lean and long seemed to have stepped from a military procession on a black figure amphora. Jasperse took compare and contrast to a more granular level with the men, and our attention followed. Their nakedness also grabbed our attention, initially for its obvious sexuality. They were dancing cheek to cheek (both kinds) and even more intimately. But over time, a certain empathy infiltrated – a feeling of “Didn’t that hurt? It felt as though it should have.”
The women were presented as one pair not as two individuals dancing most often in unison, side by side, close but not touching. Clothing, it turned out, can be both armor and an agent of conformity, distance both protection and defense. In contrast, nakedness is the most individual, distinctive identity possible. The men explored and supported each other like interlocking parts in a fantastical machine. Their bodies were on display from any and every angle, in ways that we have not seen our own. The closeness and precision of their intertwining, from the reptilian to the fluctuating equilibrium of a seesaw, required a level of trust that made everyone in the auditorium feel vulnerable. So did the length of the duet, clocking in, like that for the women, at about twenty minutes. Imagine being under a microscope for that long, the sole focus of so many intent eyes. Duration is another way Jasperse transports from watching to seeing.
The intensity lifts in the final section of “Fort Blossom Revisited” which brought the cast together in a game of tag and dodge ball (or dodge pillow). Everyone ran around, throwing plastic at each other and trying a little too hard, for a little too long (the piece runs to seventy minutes), to have a grand old time. The finale would have benefitted from being trimmed. But what stays in the mind’s eye long after, is the wonder of the human body and Jasperse’s ability, through his gutsy and committed dancers, to show it so clearly and forcefully.