Joey Heinen, from the Walker’s Visitor Services department, offers this overnight take on Truth:
Sleight-of-hand is not John Jasperse’s forté. A hundred fanning gestures simply could not hide that yellow ping-pong ball tucked neatly yet conspicuously in his palm. Perhaps a house-left front-row seat presents some challenging sightlines for a choreographer-magician. But even if you can see through the smoke and mirrors, does this make the “magic” any less fantastic?
The same could be said of dance and movement or, more aptly, the bodies themselves. Did he land that pirouette correctly? Raise your ribcage! Think of your center of gravity! In an early section of the piece, Jasperse makes a nod (or more of a headbang) at his ballet training, poking fun at his imperfect moves as an omnipresent instructor wryly critiques what he already knows to be true. Shortly after that, the coy and nimble dancers that make up his company hold impossible poses, left legs straight up in the air while a harsh front light exposes every grimace and tremble. Judging their lack of stoicism would be inappropriate—why should anyone be able (or need) to do that? Much like the immaculate concentration required of the minuet for the sake of the king, you have to wonder for whose supreme gaze is this dance intended.
Rest assured this new Walker commissioned piece Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking, and Flat-Out Lies (on the McGuire stage tonight and Saturday, May 22) is not completely self-referential. The success of this piece is found in variety. Movements range from rigorously choreographed to seemingly improvisational to butt wiggles…and plenty of them. Technically speaking, this piece tickles the senses at every turn. For the sartorial fans, ample costume changes alone will keep you interested. Lighting fanatics will be dazzled. The sound design will take your breath away (one audience member literally gasped at a sudden cessation in music). In a rare McGuire Theater moment, the piece is broken into two acts, the second act serving as a very fitting palate cleanser.
As can be expected from any Jasperse piece, surprises lay around every corner — and usually underneath the dancers’ costumes. Let’s be honest: Titillation is a large draw to Truth, which the Los Angeles Times described as “flirty and fabulous,” and is one of the main reasons why I highly anticipated seeing it. Jasperse knows that dance audiences have a lot of expectations, usually many at once. His approach is to give you everything in rapid order, challenging your ideas of what “dance” can be before pulling a quarter from your ear as if to say “lighten up!”
You are not likely to find more of a dance grab-bag than this, ranging from technically rigorous to sly and silly. It’s a process that may seem haphazard at first but slowly reveals the illusory quality of dance, likening the “smoke and mirrors” effect of magic shows to contemporary dance, which so often can fall prey to its own self-referential trappings. With Truth, you can add “escape artist” to John Jasperse’s already multiplying hats.
Don’t miss the opportunity to see this daring new piece, especially since it is the closer to the Walker Art Center’s 09-10 Performing Arts Season. John Jasperse couldn’t have concluded the season any better—now you see him, now you don’t!
Want an encore? Check out these other reviews from the local presses: